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

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

Ballenas Secondary in Parksville. (Google Maps)
COVID-19: Case confirmed at Ballenas Secondary School in Parksville

Contact tracing expected to be concluded by the end of day

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

Nanoose Bay author and poet Susan Pederson holds her book, ‘How Many Times Can You Say Goodbye?’, which is encompasses undelivered notes written to her best friend who was dying of cancer at the time. (PQB News file photo)
Nanoose Bay poet discusses hope in latest dance video

Pederson: ‘We all have something that we can do that will keep us going’

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read