"We will welcome them with a smile," McCallum said.
Tuesday's announcement could raise alarm in the U.S., where many Republican governors have said they don't want any Syrian refugees and the House of Representatives voted to curb the influx of Syrian refugees, despite a plan take in 10,000 over the next year.
Last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill requiring an analysis of terrorism threats posed by people trying to enter the U.S. through Canada. A similar bipartisan Senate bill awaits a vote. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the length of the border between the U.S. and Canada (including the Alaska-Canada frontier), is approximately 5,525 miles.
The Department of Homeland Security website says there are more than 2,200 Border Patrol agents working on what it calls the northern border — a 500 percent increase since 9/11.
"There is no way you can make it totally secure," said Andrew Finn, a program associate with the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. "You always have to think about the terrorist threat, although the vetting process for refugees into Canada is quite thorough.”
Canada will be working closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency, which will be contacting some refugees by text message to ask if they want to go to Canada, with focus on Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The first flight is due to leave from the Middle East early next month.
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said military barracks are being prepared but will be used only if temporary accommodations are needed. The government said it will spend $678 million Canadian (US$510 million) over six years on the resettlement effort.
McCallum said they will choose the most vulnerable refugees, regardless of religion. "We want to make sure there is no discrimination," Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said.
The Canadian government will give priority to complete families and women at risk. It will prioritize single adult men only if they are gay, bisexual or transgender or if they are accompanying their parents. Private groups will be allowed to sponsor any single adult man regardless of sexual or gender identity.
Canada's stance reflects the change in government after last month's elections. Stephen Harper, who was the prime minister before his Conservative Party lost control of Parliament in the Oct. 19 elections, declined to resettle more Syrian refugees, despite the haunting image of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach that focused global attention on the humanitarian crisis stemming from Syria's civil war. He had relatives in Canada, and the crisis became a major campaign issue. More than 4 million Syrians have fled their country since the conflict began in 2011.
Brad Wall, the Conservative premier of Saskatchewan, said that for security reasons, he had problems with the original deadline of accepting 25,000 refugees by Dec. 31 but that he believed Canada should welcome them.
"We are pleased that Mr. Trudeau has today listened to Canadians and abandoned a timeline that was not workable," Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel said.
Canada has long prided itself on opening its doors to asylum seekers. In times of crisis, Canada has resettled refugees quickly and in large numbers. It airlifted more than 5,000 people from Kosovo in the late 1990s, took in more than 5,000 from Uganda in 1972 and resettled 60,000 Vietnamese in 1979 and '80. More than 1.2 million refugees have arrived in Canada since World War II.