A plan by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year appeared in jeopardy on Monday after one province urged him to scrap it because of security concerns and another said the timetable was impossible.
The immigration minister in the mostly French-speaking province of Quebec, Kathleen Weil, said she does not believe Trudeau's goal is realistic.
“I’m going to be frank,” Ms Weil told reporters. “ I don’t think it is possible by the end of the year.”
Separately, the premier of the province of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, urged Mr Trudeau to re-evaluate the goal in light of Friday's attacks in Paris and the chance of admitting operatives trained by Islamic State.
"If even a small number of individuals who wish to do harm to our country are able to enter Canada as a result of a rushed refugee resettlement process, the results could be devastating," Mr Wall said in a letter to the prime minister.
Mr Wall’s objection and Ms Weil’s scepticism about the timetable add growing pressure on Mr Trudeau to adjust his election campaign promise. Mr Trudeau reiterated on Sunday that Canada will admit 25,000 Syrian refugees before January 1st.
Mr Trudeau's Liberals won a majority in Parliament in October, unseating the nine-year-old government of Conservative Stephen Harper, who had emphasized national security and wanted to accept fewer refugees at a slower pace.
Mr Wall, who is close with the Conservatives, commended Mr Trudeau’s goal of helping refugees, most of whom “pose no threat to anyone.” But he said it should not come at the cost of Canadian safety.
One of the attackers may have entered Europe as a refugee. The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the gunmen who died in Friday night's attacks in Paris was registered as a refugee in several European countries last month, authorities said.
Asked to comment on Quebec petitions against accepting the refugees, Ms Weil said people “want to be reassured” that precautions were being taken to verify the identities of refugees accepted by Canada.
“I think there is of course, it’s obvious, a heightened sensitivity to these issues,” Ms Weil said.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees conducts first screening in refugee camps in Lebanon and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service then screens for possible criminal or terrorist connections before they leave for Canada, she said.