Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a year end interview with The Canadian Press on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

During a wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press, Trudeau said he believes a broad Canadian consensus holds that immigration is good for the country, in the face of growing opposition to it in other places.

The Liberal leader’s line suggests a theme for next year’s election campaign.

“The decision that the Conservatives have taken recently to, for example, go after the global compact on migration in a way that is deliberately and knowingly spreading falsehoods for short-term political gain and to drum up anxiety around immigration is irresponsible, is not the way we should be moving forward in a thoughtful way on one of the big issues that is facing our country,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister says he welcomes debate and discussion about immigration — as long as it sticks to meaningful areas of policy, such as the right number of immigrants to bring to Canada each year and how to properly integrate newcomers within the country.

“But the fearmongering, and the misinformation that is being deliberately and knowingly put out by the Conservative party right now, is very dangerous to something that has been an extraordinary advantage and benefit for Canada for generations,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s press secretary Brock Harrison said Trudeau’s comments demonstrate that he is failing to take responsibility for Canadians’ concerns about the border.

“He resorts to personal attacks and phoney arguments whenever he’s criticized for it,” Harrison said. “Conservatives will continue to hold him to account over the lengthy delays in processing and billions in added costs caused by his failure to secure the border.”

Read more: Trudeau names four new senators, filling every seat in the Senate

Read more: Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Last week, Canada joined 164 countries in signing the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. It is the first large-scale agreement to cover all dimensions of international migration and is aimed at improving co-operation.

But the pact has incited protest, particularly in Eastern Europe, where a number of far-right groups and political parties have used the compact to fan public concern over a historic increase in the number of migrants and displaced people fleeing wars, persecution and violence in their home countries — or, in some cases, seeking better economic opportunities.

Scheer came out strongly against the compact on the grounds that it would give foreign entities influence over Canada’s immigration system, claims that have been rejected by many immigration-law experts.

The Conservatives have also been hammering the Liberals over the influx of asylum seekers crossing into Canada ”irregularly,” away from official entry points, over the last two years. The issue has led to clashes with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who each want Ottawa to fork over $200 million or more to cover costs the two provinces have borne to house and provide services to asylum seekers.

They say the federal government is too slow to assess refugee claims and while claimants wait, the provinces have to support them.

Over 38,000 irregular migrants have arrived in Canada since early 2017.

Trudeau might face a steep challenge if migration turns out to be an election issue. An Angus Reid Institute poll conducted this fall suggested the Liberals are vulnerable on the issue of asylum seekers. Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, told The Canadian Press at the time that concerns about the border resonate across the political spectrum every time the Conservatives bring the issue up.

Trudeau said he plans to address the Canadian public’s growing fears by emphasizing that Canada has a robust immigration system that ensures incoming refugee claimants pose no security risk and meets international obligations that Canada has agreed to uphold.

“This process is working to keep us safe,” he said. “There is a careful approach (by the Conservatives) to try and scare people, and as we’ve said, it’s always easier to try and scare people then to allay fears in a time of anxiety.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric is helping some political parties, Trudeau acknowledged, pointing specifically to Eastern Europe and the United States. These views have gained traction online in Canada, he added, noting this as an area “that I think requires us to be more vigilant.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria council recommends prioritizing housing for people in the area for at least a year

The motion passed unanimously during committee of the whole meeting

Sooke Bluffs staircase closed due to rot

District to consider replacement for ‘high risk’ staircase in fall

VicPD uses ‘less-lethal’ rounds to remove woman barricaded in stranger’s basement

The woman is believed to have broken into a dealership, attempting to steal a vehicle earlier in the evening

Vancouver Island MLA says too much on shoulders of RCMP

Reformed Police Act could look at spreading responsibility to other responders

Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

North Saanich psychotherapist pushes for alternative treatment

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Parkinson SuperWalk goes virtual throughout B.C. due to COVID-19

People encouraged to walk around their neighbourhood, along community trails, through parks, forests

Missed rent payments because of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

Most Read