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

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Most Read