Canada rejects US security concerns over Syrian refugees

Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale welcomed a court ruling the spy agency held onto sensitive data beyond the time allowed by warrants calling it "timely" (AFP Photo/Chris Wattie) (POOL/AFP/File)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada rejected Wednesday US security concerns over its fast-tracked resettlement of thousands of Syrian refugees, as the Senate in Washington prepares to hold a hearing on the repercussions for America.

"We have put in place layers of security activity to ensure that our refugee initiative with respect to Syria can be successful," Canadian public safety minister Ralph Goodale told parliament.

"The program is working well and indeed it will resolve in something that Canadians can be very, very proud of," he added in response to questions about why the Ottawa government declined an invitation to appear before the US Senate hearing.

The US congressional panel is meeting next Wednesday to consider "Canada's Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for US National Security."

It is scheduled to hear from a Toronto immigration lawyer who has criticized Canada's Syrian refugee plan, calling it unrealistic, border officials and others.

Goodale said US officials have been fully briefed on Canada's refugee resettlement "and they understand exactly the layers of security screening that are in place," including UN assessments of asylum seekers, collection of biometrics and checks against security databases.

A spokeswoman for Canada's foreign affairs minister added, "We have emphasized and will continue to emphasize the integrity and robustness of our approach to the selection and screening of the Syrian refugees under consideration."

Canada's new Liberal government pledged to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees -- more than double the US intake -- by the end of February.

Its initial plan was to bring them to Canada by the end of 2015, but that was pushed back in response to criticism that the government was moving too fast, amid security concerns in the aftermath of deadly attacks in Paris, as well as due to logistical issues.

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