Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure’

More political positioning than realistic options for many of the reasons listed:

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says that, if elected, he would close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) that allows people to make refugee claims in Canada even if they enter the country at an unofficial border crossing.

The Conservatives also aren’t ruling out creating detention camps at the border to house irregular migrants while their claims are being processed.

Asked directly if detention camps were something a Conservative government would create at the border, the Conservatives said the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides criteria for detaining asylum seekers. This leaves the option of creating detention camps at the border open.

Scheer’s pledge, made Wednesday at Roxham Road in Quebec, came with few details on exactly how he would close the loophole.

Scheer said his “preferred option” would be to renegotiate the STCA with the U.S., but when pressed on what he would do if U.S. President Donald Trump refused to make a deal, Scheer was light on details.

“There are other options. There are other tools available to the government that we will also be exploring,” Scheer said.

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

One of these options is to declare the entire Canada-U.S. border an official port of entry. This way, people entering the country would be covered by the STCA and — if they do not qualify for an exemption under the agreement — would be sent back to the U.S.

Scheer suggested this is one of the options he’s looking at when he said “we can apply the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement at other points along the border.”

But migration experts, border security officials and the government have questioned whether this is possible.

Sharry Aiken, a Queen’s University law professor, says any plan to scrap the loophole in the STCA without agreement from the U.S. is “doomed to failure.”

Meanwhile, she says expanding the agreement to cover the entire border is nonsensical because Canada does not have the resources to enforce this type of mass “securitization” of the border, nor is this type of strategy effective.

Aiken points to the U.S.-Mexico border as an example of why increased security does not mean fewer irregular migrants.

“As we can see in relation to what’s going on with respect to America’s efforts in relation to Mexico, they’re an abysmal failure,” she said. “People are still crossing, just at higher costs and at peril to their lives. People are dying all the time.”

A Conservative spokesperson later clarified Scheer’s comments on this issue. The Conservatives said it’s not their policy to expand official port of entry status to the entire border. Instead, they would “pursue a regulatory approach to ensure that the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement are applied and people are not able to jump the queue.”

Promise would require new legislation

Since spring 2017, there has been a significant influx of asylum seekers in Canada, many of whom entered the country irregularly at unofficial border crossings.

The total number of asylum claims made in Canada in 2018 was 55,000, of which about one-third crossed the border irregularly. This was up from 23,500 total claims two years earlier.

In addition to pledging to close the loophole in the STCA, Scheer said he would move existing judges from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) closer to the border and widely used unofficial crossings to speed up the processing time for claims and make crossing “illegally” less attractive.

But Aiken and others say Scheer could not do this without first introducing new legislation to change the IRB’s mandate. That’s because the IRB operates independently of the government, and administrative decisions are strictly the authority of the IRB’s chairperson, she said.

Raoul Boulakia, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says moving refugee judges to the border would also make it a lot harder for asylum seekers to access a lawyer — a right they are guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, Craig Damian Smith, director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said Scheer’s pledge lacks vital details.

For example, he wonders if Scheer would create detention camps at the border for asylum seekers who enter the country irregularly to be held while their claims are processed.

Scheer claims asylum seekers are ‘skipping the line’

Smith also questions the logistics of the move. The IRB isn’t just made up of judges, he said. There are translators, administrative staff, offices and other things needed in order for claims to be heard and judges to be able to do their jobs.

Smith says holding asylum seekers at the border while their claims are processed — no matter how quickly this is done — presents other problems, such as limiting their ability to work, pay taxes and receive health care.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, says that if elected, it will amend existing immigration legislation and regulations to make sure IRB judges can be deployed to irregular crossing “hot spots.”

The money needed to relocate IRB judges will come from existing budgets, Conservatives say, adding that there are no plans to change current work-permit rules for people whose asylum claims are allowed to go forward.

Ex-minister under Hussein made refugee claim in Canada

Conservatives point out that immigration detention already takes place in Canada. However, there are currently no immigration detention centres at the border. Instead, would-be refugees who cannot prove their identity, are a flight risk or who could pose a security risk are detained at facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Some asylum seekers are also held in long-term detention in provincial jails. According statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, the average stay in immigration detention in 2017-18 was 14 days.

Under current rules, asylum seekers are allowed to move freely within Canada once their claims are made and so long as they are not detained. Unless laws are changed, Smith said, moving IRB judges to the border would not change this and likely will not speed up the hearing process.

Scheer has repeatedly said closing the STCA loophole would make Canada’s immigration system fairer, more orderly and more compassionate.

Source: Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure”

Andrew Coyne: You can’t be leader of one country and pledge allegiance to another

Apart from the hypocrisy (which many politicians are guilty), it is the sheer obliviousness.

It is not like the situation in Australia, where a number of politicians found out inadvertently there were considered dual citizens. Andrew Scheer filed annual US tax returns as required by US law.

On the second part of Coyne’s commentary, his questioning the concept of dual citizenship is more theoretical than practical. One can make his arguments but one has to be aware of the practical implications, not to mention the political impracticalities.

For some immigrant groups, travel back to their country of origin to visit family or for business can only be done on the country of origin, Iran being an example. So ending dual citizenship would have a real impact on those who immigrated from such countries.

While largely not an issue for MPs and Ministers, I agree with Coyne’s arguments that leaders should not be dual citizenship for symbolic and practical reasons.

In Andrew Scheer’s case, would the public be comfortable with a dual American-Canadian negotiating NAFTA or other bilateral agreements? Even if only from a perception perspective?

If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, virtue must be feeling awfully flattered of late.

Hardly had we digested the news that Justin Trudeau, for all his attempts to tar opponents as racially insensitive troglodytes — certainly next to his own exquisitely sensitive self — had made something of a hobby of dressing up as a black or brown person, when we learned that Andrew Scheer, though he and his party had been quick to criticize other party leaders for being dual citizens, was guilty of the same offence himself.

Well, no, the two situations are not quite the same, are they? For while everyone agrees that wearing blackface is deeply wrong, everyone seems equally agreed that there’s nothing wrong with someone being a citizen of two countries — not even a prime minister. “Over a million Canadians hold dual citizenships,” a Liberal spokesperson began in response. “It’s part of what makes Canada great.”

The problem, rather, was that Scheer had failed to make public that he was one of those over a million Canadians, had indeed been “caught hiding” his involvement in part of what makes Canada great, “even as he was ridiculing others for holding dual citizenship.” The issue, then, was not that he had done something inherently shameful — like, say, dressing in blackface — or even that he had hidden this wholly unshameful fact. The issue was that he was a hypocrite.

And so he is — a flaming one. If he has not made quite the same career out of his personal opposition to dual citizens that Trudeau has made of his opposition to racism, he and his party certainly made hay out of the dual French and Canadian citizenship of former governor general Michaelle Jean, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, and former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Just on a level of basic competence: how on earth did he imagine this would not come out?

So all right, he’s a hypocrite — as are those who shrugged at their cases but seem very exercised about his. But beyond the hypocrisy, what is the substance of the issue? Are we right to assume there is nothing wrong with dual citizenship, only with hypocrisy? I don’t think so — as I said then, and as I repeat now.

It’s not wrong on a personal level: none of these leaders have done anything wrong, nor have their million semi-compatriates. It’s the law that’s wrong. It is wrong that Canada values its citizenship so cheaply that it allows it to be held simultaneously with another (or indeed any number of others: the arguments for dual citizenship apply equally to treble or quadruple citizenship). And it’s more wrong that it cannot bring itself even to ask of those who seek to lead it that, at a minimum, they should renounce all other allegiances.

To be a citizen of a nation is not like being a subscriber to a magazine, something you can collect or discard at will. It implies a reciprocal relationship, not only a set of privileges (like the right to vote) but also of obligations — to obey the law, to pay your taxes, even in some cases to serve in war. Mostly, it implies membership in a community — the obligations it entails are not what we owe the state, but what we owe each other.

We agree, as citizens, to throw in our lot with each other, to make sacrifices for each other, to put each other first. It is not possible to maintain an equal obligation to another national community — to put both “first” is a contradiction in terms. Elsewhere this is well understood. In countries as diverse as Denmark and Japan, the condition of acquiring a second citizenship is that you give up your first.

Dual citizenship should not be mistaken for pluralism, or openness. It is to Canada’s great credit and advantage that we welcome so many to join us, from all over the world, as it is that we do not expect them to conform to some rigid official identity. We should do everything we can to make it possible for newcomers to acquire Canadian citizenship. All we should ask in return is that it be their only one.

Or if that seems too much, can we at least ask that of those who would lead us? For as much as dual citizenship raises questions about what it means to be a citizen, it does so even more at the level of leadership — at least, if leadership means anything more than mere administration. In any political community, especially in a crisis, a leader must be able to rally the people to his side, to inspire them to make difficult choices, take necessary risks, sometimes to make painful sacrifices.

If they are to do that, if they are to follow where he leads, they must believe he is loyal to them, and to them only. They are unlikely to be willing to make the sacrifices he demands of them if he cannot himself make so elemental a sacrifice as to cast his lot with them — if not irrevocably, then at least exclusively. The notion that a prime minister, in particular, might make laws for one country while being subject to the laws of another — to the point, in Scheer’s case, of being eligible for the draft — is frankly bizarre.

Membership in a community should have meaning. The parties know this: you cannot be a member of one political party if you are a member of another. Why do they treat Canadian citizenship less seriously? Why do we?

Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Good column by Jack Jedwab:

Somewhat unexpectedly, the issues of discrimination and racism have moved to the forefront in the federal election. At the start of the campaign, answering a journalist’s question about Quebec’s secularism Bill 21, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau left open the possibility of some eventual legal intervention on the legislation. Predictably, there was an almost immediate response from Quebec Premier François Legault, asking all federal leaders to make a pledge to stay out of the matter. With the exception of Trudeau, the other federal party leaders quickly complied. Bill 21 prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by Quebec public school teachers, judges, police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and other public servants in positions of authority, as a way of enshrining the concept of state secularism.

And then, just as the campaign’s attention on Bill 21 waned, some very distasteful photos of a younger Trudeau in brownface and in blackface hit the national and international media. Trudeau apologized many times for his past behaviour and correctly acknowledged that it was highly offensive.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisted that the blackface pointed to Trudeau’s lack of judgment and as such raised questions about his ability to govern. During a September 20 campaign stop in PEI, Scheer said all levels of government need to address the types of issues raised by such conduct. He said that “Conservatives will always support measures that tackle discrimination…We’ll always promote policies that promote inclusiveness and equality throughout our society.” Ironically, that’s precisely what needs to be said in addressing Bill 21.

For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made an impassioned plea to all Canadians who were offended by the images of Trudeau in blackface. He chose to speak to those people who have felt the pain of racism and urged them not to give up on themselves, adding that they have value and worth and that they are loved. But that message does not appear to apply to those persons affected by Bill 21. Singh seems unwilling to defend those Quebecers who wear a turban, hijab or kippah and want to teach at a public school in their home province. Paradoxically, while Singh can become prime minister of Canada, he would be unable to teach at a public school in Quebec under Bill 21. By insisting on the need to respect provincial jurisdiction, Singh implies that members of religious minorities need to give up their hope of seeking a career in public service.

Both Scheer’s and Singh’s criticisms of Trudeau and the related concerns about the spread of racism would be more credible if they denounced the discriminatory aspects of Bill 21 rather than bowing to the Quebec Premier’s demands and looking the other way on what Legault insists is a strictly provincial matter.

Perhaps, like many observers, the federal party leaders don’t see any connection between blackface and a state prohibition against educators wearing hijabs, turbans and kippahs in public institutions. Yet the case can surely be made that both arise from subconscious or overt feelings and/or expressions of prejudice that are, regrettably, deemed acceptable by far too many people. The difference is that Trudeau’s use of blackface occurred two decades ago, while the legislation banning religious symbols is the object of current debate.

In the aftermath of the Trudeau blackface incidents, there have been calls for a national conversation about racism. But the tone of this election campaign does not allow for a thoughtful discussion about the ongoing challenge of eliminating racism and discrimination. Ideally, all federal party leaders should work together to combat racism and discrimination, whether it appears in Quebec or anywhere else in the country.

Source: Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Scheer says he would continue Liberals’ $45M anti-racism strategy

Unfortunately, behind the paywall but nevertheless interesting.

Of course, if we judge by the previous Conservative government, which drastically reduced the resources dedicated to multiculturalism and anti-racism programming (The Conservative legacy on multiculturalism: more cohesion, less inclusion):

The Liberal government’s $45-million anti-racism strategy isn’t going anywhere under a Scheer government, the Conservative leader says.

Asked by a reporter in Thorold, Ont., on Tuesday whether he supports the anti-racism plan put forward by the Trudeau government this year, and the approach it is taking, Andrew Scheer said he would continue to back such programs.

Source: Scheer says he would continue Liberals’ $45M anti-racism strategy

Reporter un vote pour des motifs religieux? Scheer s’en remet au DGE

Of note. Will see how Elections Canada responds to the court ruling to re-examine the issue:

Le chef du Parti conservateur du Canada, Andrew Scheer, se garde d’appuyer publiquement les efforts de sa candidate Chani Aryeh-Bain qui visent à repousser les prochaines élections générales afin qu’elles ne coïncident pas avec la fête juive Chemini Atseret.

Il laisse le soin au Directeur général des élections du Canada, Stéphane Perrault, de recommander, s’il le juge opportun, le report du scrutin, qui est actuellement prévu le lundi 21 octobre.

Mme Aryeh-Bain, qui brigue les suffrages dans la circonscription ontarienne de Eglinton-Lawrence sous la bannière du PCC, soutient que la Loi juive interdit aux juifs orthodoxes comme elle de faire campagne ou encore de voter de la soirée du 20 octobre à la soirée du 22 octobre.

« Il est important que tous les électeurs sachent qu’il y a beaucoup d’autres façons de voter pendant l’élection, comme le vote par anticipation et le vote directement aux bureaux d’Élections Canada dans chaque circonscription, et ce, durant toute la durée de la campagne électorale », a fait valoir M. Scheer lors de son passage au Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean mercredi.

« Il y a eu une décision de la cour et maintenant c’est à Élections Canada de prendre une décision. Nous respectons l’indépendance d’Élections Canada », a aussi dit l’homme politique en précampagne électorale au Québec.

Mardi, la Cour fédérale a demandé à Élections Canada de reconsidérer sa réponse à la demande de changement de date de scrutin soumise notamment par Mme Aryeh-Bain, la jugeant « déraisonnable ». D’ici le 1er août, l’organisme doit trouver « un équilibre » entre les droits garantis par la Charte des droits et libertés et le mandat qui lui est conféré par la Loi électorale, a soutenu la juge Ann Marie McDonald dans une décision d’une vingtaine de pages.

« Jour de rechange »

Le directeur général des élections « peut » recommander au gouvernement de tenir les élections générales soit le mardi qui suit le jour qui serait normalement le jour du scrutin, soit le lundi suivant lorsque le jour du scrutin — le troisième lundi d’octobre — « coïncide avec un jour revêtant une importance culturelle ou religieuse ou avec la tenue d’une élection provinciale ou municipale », prévoit la Loi électorale du Canada.

Ne disposant pas de liste exhaustive des journées « revêtant une importance culturelle ou religieuse » au sens de la Loi électorale, le directeur général d’Élections Canada a sollicité les avis de différents groupes, dont le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA), avant de recommander au gouvernement fédéral de convoquer les Canadiens aux urnes le lundi 21 octobre prochain, a expliqué le porte-parole d’Élections Canada, Ghislain Desjardins.

Que fera Élections Canada différemment cette fois-ci ? « L’équipe est au travail », s’est contenté de répondre M. Desjardins.

Le Nouveau Parti démocratique (NPD) encourage toute personne persuadée que ses droits fondamentaux sont lésés à recourir aux tribunaux, comme l’a fait la conservatrice Chani Aryeh-Bain. « Il est important que les Canadiens et Canadiennes puissent consulter les tribunaux chaque fois qu’ils estiment que leurs droits garantis par la Charte pourraient être violés », a dit le porte-parole en matière de réforme démocratique, Daniel Blaikie.

L’élu manitobain demande aujourd’hui au patron d’Élections Canada, Stéphane Perrault, de « prendre au sérieux la décision du tribunal et déterminer la ligne de conduite qu’il juge la plus appropriée dans les circonstances actuelles ».

M. Blaikie dit se fier au « jugement des institutions indépendantes [comme Élections Canada] afin de s’assurer que le processus ne soit ni politisé ni perçu comme tel ».

De son côté, le chef du Bloc québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, demande sans détour à M. Perrault de « garder le cap » et de maintenir la tenue des élections le lundi 21 octobre prochain. « Le multiculturalisme canadien tel qu’interprété par la Cour fédérale donnerait préséance aux demandes d’une religion ou d’une autre sur l’autorité législative de l’État en ce qui a trait au mode de fixation du jour d’un scrutin. Le directeur général des élections doit refuser ce recul de l’État laïque. La religion ne doit pas interférer avec le fonctionnement de l’État civil », a affirmé l’ex-ministre québécois.

Le président et directeur général du Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA), Shimon Koffler Fogel, se range aussi du côté d’Élections Canada. « Changer la date à ce stade entraîne des implications logistiques et financières considérables », a-t-il soutenu dans la foulée de la décision de la Cour fédérale. À ses yeux, Élections Canada « a pris d’importantes mesures, en consultation avec la communauté juive, pour que chaque électeur juif puisse voter ».

Mais, selon B’nai Brith Canada, « les implications et coûts opérationnels ne constituent pas une justification convaincante pour bafouer des droits et des libertés reconnus par la Charte ». L’association demande à Élections Canada de différer de sept jours la tenue du scrutin.

L’an dernier, des juifs orthodoxes avaient tenté de repousser les élections générales québécoises, puisqu’elles coïncidaient également avec la Chemini Atseret, mais en vain.

La ministre des Institutions démocratiques, Karina Gould, a refusé de prendre position dans le débat sur la date du prochain scrutin. Elle dit s’en remettre à Élections Canada dont la « recommandation est faite […] en toute indépendance du gouvernement ». « Il ne faut pas confondre notre respect de la loi — dans ce cas, seul le DGE a la capacité de réviser sa décision et, si besoin est, sa recommandation — avec de l’indifférence », a souligné une membre de son cabinet. « La Loi électorale du Canada ne nous permet tout simplement pas de politiser cette décision, ni de substituer notre point de vue à celui du DGE ou de la Cour », a-t-elle ajouté.

Source: Reporter un vote pour des motifs religieux? Scheer s’en remet au DGE

Article in English: Federal court orders review of election date that coincides with Jewish …https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/federal-court-orthodox-jewish-1.5222279

Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration

Coyne’s take. The removal of Conservative MP Michael Cooper from the Justice Committee is an early signal that he may have learned from his earlier missteps and that the Bernier’s PPC will have less of an impact:

….The deficit about-face, it should be said, is only part of a larger project on which the Conservative leader is now embarked, the purpose of his current “My Vision of Canada” speaking tour. One part of it is to neutralize any issues on which the party might be vulnerable. The other is to establish himself as a prime minister in waiting and his party as a credible alternative to the governing Liberals.

That this is still necessary is in no small measure due to Scheer’s own actions: speaking at a rally organized by the dubious group known as the Yellow Vests, ranting about fictional plots to subject Canadian immigration policy to United Nations rule, enthusing about Brexit, refusing to say how he would reduce Canada’s carbon emissions. If he was trying to keep voters from straying to Maxime Bernier’s populist People’s Party, it was at the cost of too-closely resembling it.

The most immediate necessity, then, was to rebrand the Conservatives as the Conservatives. The first of the five speeches, on foreign policy, was a solid, if anodyne effort at presenting himself as a statesman; the second, on the economy, an opportunity to recite some familiar Conservative bromides on the virtues of low taxes, balanced budgets and free markets (the deficit climbdown was included in a supplementary effort).

But the third, on immigration, was the most important yet, and the most successful. Not every line rang true, but it was, in the main, an ode to immigration, and to immigrants, as the lifeblood of the country. That it was also an explicit renunciation of the sort of anti-immigrant or racist sentiment that has attached itself to conservative parties across the West was of course also welcome, if essential: not to do so, in view of the suspicions to which he has himself contributed, would have been disqualifying.

But Scheer went much further. At a time when conservative leaders elsewhere, responding to public fears, are demanding the gates be closed, it should be cause for some satisfaction that the leader of the main Canadian conservative party should make such an avowedly pro-immigration speech.

He will have to do much more to make the case for his election. But centrist voters, disenchanted with the Liberals but concerned at the Tories’ flirtation with populism, might be at least reassured enough now to give him a look.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration

On immigration, Scheer is trying to please two different audiences at once

Aaron Wherry’s take, noting his silence on the Conservative Party’s opposition to the global compact on migration :

Andrew Scheer’s immigration speech on Tuesday night rested its arguments on a debatable premise.

“With each passing day,” he said, “Justin Trudeau and the Liberals undermine” Canada’s “proud legacy” of immigration. “They have managed,” Scheer said, “to undermine the long-standing consensus that immigration is indeed a positive thing for this country.”

Public polling on this topic is mixed, but a recent survey by Environics suggested that general views on immigration have changed little over the last eight years. In 2011, 47 per cent of respondents said immigration made Canada a better place, while 16 per cent said it made Canada a worse place. In 2019, those numbers were 44 per cent and 15 per cent.

In 2011, 58 per cent disagreed with the statement that immigration levels were “too high.” In 2019, 59 per cent disagreed.

There’s a crucial partisan division in the 2019 numbers, however. On the question of whether immigration levels were too high, 75 per cent of Liberal voters and 70 per cent of NDP supporters disagreed. Just 44 per cent of Conservative voters disagreed.

It’s that breakdown of consensus that leaves Andrew Scheer trying to address two different audiences — to reassure the wide swath of voters who are basically happy with immigration, while also speaking to the sceptics who support his party.

The resulting tension was barely concealed in Scheer’s remarks on Tuesday.

How many is too many?

He expounded on the contributions that successive waves of immigrants have made to this country and explained the economic imperative for continued immigration. He promised that, if he becomes prime minister, his government would move to increase private sponsorship of refugees.

But Scheer made a point of declining to say exactly how many immigrants Canada would accept under a new Conservative government. He described the whole topic of setting a number as “a little bit of a red herring.” That seemed to be an excuse to avoid being pinned down.

Those calling for the current levels to be cut, he said, are making “rash promises.” But those who advocate for “high targets” are also doing so for political ends, he argued.

Scheer, apparently, would arrive at some kind of objectively correct number. But not unless or until he becomes prime minister. And even then, he said, “that number may change every year.”

The Conservative leader was more categorical in condemning racism and intolerance.

“I’d like to make something absolutely crystal clear,” he said. “There is absolutely no room in a peaceful and free country like Canada for intolerance, racism and extremism of any kind. And the Conservative Party of Canada will always make that absolutely clear.”

Polishing the party’s immigration image

That Scheer felt he needed to say so might be viewed as evidence of an image problem. If, for instance, he had not appeared at a protest attended by members of the so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement, and if his party hadn’t had to retract an attack ad about asylum-seekers that featured an image of a black man crossing into Canada, he might not have felt it necessary to clarify his position on racism.

But Scheer also condemned the Liberals for too harshly condemning their critics. “We should be able to have an immigration debate in this country without the government calling people who criticize its failure racists and bigots,” Scheer said.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did once describe his Ontario counterpart’s language on the issue of irregular immigration as “not Canadian.” And Trudeau has challenged Scheer to condemn white supremacists.

But in the one case where Trudeau directly accused someone of racism, he was speaking to a woman in Quebec who had referred to “your illegal immigrants” and “Québécois de souche” — an inflammatory phrase that refers to the original descendants of French colonists. Scheer criticized Trudeau’s comments at the time.

On Tuesday night, Scheer dwelled on the issue of irregular migration along Canada’s southern border, just as his party has over the last two years. “The numbers are almost hard to believe,” he said of the more than 40,000 people who have come to Canada in that time.

Choosing to present that situation as a pressing problem might strike some as understandable. But it’s also a political choice — one that no doubt speaks to those who think Canada is currently accepting too many immigrants.

In that respect, Scheer’s speech was most interesting for what he did not mention: the UN’s global compact on migration.

Last December, Scheer publicly and prominently condemned the Trudeau government’s decision to sign the non-binding statement of principles that’s meant to frame an international approach to the emerging challenge of migration. Canada joined 151 other countries in ratifying the compact.

International opposition to the initiative was later traced to far-right activists. In opposing the pact, Scheer’s Conservatives found themselves on the same side with Donald Trump’s administration and several nationalist parties in Europe. Scheer said the compact was a threat to Canada’s national sovereignty. “It gives influence over Canada’s immigration system to foreign entities,” he claimed.

Chris Alexander, the former Conservative immigration minister, was moved to say that Scheer’s assessment was “factually incorrect.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called Justin Trudeau’s immigration plan “irresponsible” and “broken.” So what would his approach be? David Cochrane breaks down Scheer’s latest policy speech leading up to this fall’s election. 2:13

The Conservative party’s website still features a condemnation of the compact and an invitation for Canadians to add their names to an online petition opposing it.

But six months after saying he’d pull Canada out of the compact, Scheer gave a 3,000-word speech about immigration without mentioning it once.

Maybe Scheer is ready to forget what he said in December. But if he’s still opposed to the compact, it’s an odd omission.

Scheer vows crackdown on those trying to ‘game’ Canada’s refugee system

As many have noted (see below), light on specifics but clear focus on dispelling the (Liberal) narrative that the Conservatives are anti-immigration, xenophobic and racist. Strongest message from him on inclusiveness and rebuking those who are. He has set the bar for Conservative candidates, and no doubt the media and others will be watching candidate nominations accordingly.

Scheer is completely correct in stating that questioning immigration policies and program management should not be dismissed as racists or bigots but debated on the merits of the arguments. The Liberals are all too quick to jump on that charge.

But how these arguments are framed, which words are used, the meetings one attends, the audience one targets are equally important (and applies to all parties).

While the focus on border management was expected, the ducking the question of immigration levels was not. Going back to an annual plan makes little sense given that a multi-year plan assists other levels of government and settlement organizations plan. One can question whether the levels are too high or low in the current plan (a case can be made either way).

The general points – promoting private sponsorship of refugees, emphasizing economic immigration, improving language training, improving foreign credential recognition – are long standing Conservative policy approaches that they also emphasized when in government. Providing a low-skilled workers a path to permanent residency is new to my recollection (current stats indicate that only higher skilled workers transition to permanent residency in significant numbers). And of course, closing the loophole in the STCA with the USA requires US agreement, and the Liberal government is already taking steps in the regard.

And interestingly, but not surprisingly, not a word about any changes to citizenship (the Liberal government reversed the Conservative  expanded ages for knowledge and language testing along with citizenship revocation in cases of terror or treason).

Starting with the points on the CPC website:

As Prime Minister, Andrew Scheer will:

  • Work to immediately restore fairness, order, and compassion in our immigration system
  • Put an end to illegal border crossings at unofficial points of entry like Roxham Road
  • Close the loophole in the Safe-Third Country Agreement that allows some people to skip the line and avoid the queue
  • Safeguard and emphasize economic immigration
  • Set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests
  • Stand up for families and ensure that spouses and children can be reunited
  • Improve language training
  • Ensure that our system prioritizes people facing true persecution
  • Improve credential recognition and make it easier for new Canadians who have existing skills that meet our standards to ply their trades here
  • Work to reunite survivors of genocide, who have already resettled in Canada, more expeditiously
  • Bring back the Office of Religious Freedom so that we can protect our shared humanity and promote interest in the dignity of all people
  • Promote the private sponsorships of refugees

Conservatives have cleaned up Liberal messes in immigration before and we are prepared to do it again… with fairness, order, and compassion as the pillars of our efforts.

Source: Andrew Scheer’s Immigration Plan

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would restore fairness and faith in the integrity of Canada’s immigration system by cracking down on those who “game” the refugee process and supporting newcomers who help boost the economy.

In a pre-election speech on immigration policy, Scheer blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for eroding public trust in the system by failing to stop the flow of people crossing into Canada from the U.S. outside official border points. The Liberals, he argued, have undermined Canada’s legacy of welcoming newcomers through a system based on compassion, the rule of law and human rights.

“Among the people I hear from most often on this point are new Canadians themselves, people who have played by the rules and arrived in Canada fair and square,” Scheer said to supporters and invited guests from diverse communities during a party-organized event in Toronto.

“They are most offended at Trudeau’s status-quo, where some are able to jump queues, exploit loopholes and skip the line.”

In a speech called Unity in Diversity, one in a series of five speeches on his vision for Canada, Scheer set the stage for an election campaign that’s expected to see divisive immigration issues become key points of debate.

He boasted about the Conservatives’ past record in reducing processing times and backlogs, and outlined in broad strokes some measures his government would take if it’s elected this fall.

Scheer said Conservatives would not set arbitrary immigration levels, but rather be guided on an annual basis based on Canada’s best interests.

“That number may change every year, and I’m not going to get into a political debate, or worse, an auction about immigration numbers,” he said. “The number will reflect what Canada needs and, just as importantly, who needs Canada.”

Refugee, economic immigrant policies

He also said a Conservative government would:

  • Do more to promote privately sponsored refugees.
  • Safeguard and emphasize economic immigration.
  • Improve language training so newcomers can succeed economically and socially.
  • Improve credential recognition to make it easier for newcomers to practise their professions and trades.
  • Provide low-skilled workers a permanent path to residency, making sure wages are fair and taking steps to prevent abuse of workers.
  • Close a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement to prevent people from entering Canada at Roxham Road in Quebec and other illegal crossing points.

The Liberals have been under fire for failing to control the border during a surge in the number of people crossing into Canada from the U.S. outside official border points. About 40,000 people have crossed illegally in the last two years.

Scheer accused Trudeau of playing wedge politics on the immigration file by responding to criticism with “rhetoric and personal attacks.”

“We should be able to have an immigration debate in this country without the government calling its critics racists and bigots,” he said.

Scheer said the Liberal approach is “dangerous” because it reduces legitimate criticisms to “cheap partisanship” and devalues the real threats of racism, bigotry and extremism.

Hateful forces

“To ascribe those motives to those who simply want stronger security screening procedures, or fewer people entering the country illegally, makes a mockery of such hateful forces,” he said.

The Liberals lost no time in tearing into the Conservatives’ approach to immigration and refugee policy.

In a Liberal Party news release issued before Scheer was to take the podium, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen accused Scheer of embracing “the same sort of extreme right wing anti-immigration rhetoric that has become pervasive among right-wing populist parties around the world.”

Hussen also took aim at the Conservative legacy on immigration, saying the party made “reckless” program cuts that were called cruel and unusual treatment by the Federal Court.

“From stoking fear with snitch lines and cutting refugee health services, to running ads that peddle false information and outright conspiracy theories, Canadians know that Conservative politicians see immigration policy as a way to fear monger and divide Canadians,” Hussen said in the release.

Superior views ‘absolutely repugnant’

On refugees, Scheer said his “deeply held personal convictions” are based on universal equality, and said the notion that someone’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation would make them superior is “absolutely repugnant.”

The Conservative leader also spoke of how his beliefs about helping those in greatest need were shaped by his mother, who died a couple of years ago, and her commitment to helping refugees and the most vulnerable people. Canada must continue to be a place of refuge for those truly in need, he said.

“This strikes at the very fairness of Canada’s immigration system, and there is absolutely nothing fair about forcing the oppressed and the persecuted, like the Syrians my mother helped, to wait longer for Canada’s help while others cross the border illegally from places like upstate New York,” he said.

Hussen’s release defended the Liberal record in office, insisting the Trudeau government has restored confidence in the immigration system by investing in resources to attract newcomers, shorten wait times and ensure fairness.

“Canadians don’t want to go back to the old days and old divisive ways of Stephen Harper and that’s what Andrew Sheer has to offer.”

Source: Andrew Scheer unveils his vision for Canada’s immigration system | CBC News

Commentary of interest

From John Ivison of the National Post:

In his immigration address, Scheer offered the perfect riposte to the suggestion that he is sympathetic to white supremacists and the tapeworm of intolerance and bigotry.

The Conservative leader was explicit – “there is no room in a peaceful and free country like Canada for intolerance, racism or extremism of any kind,” he said.

He reinforced his belief that immigration is a net positive contributor to the Canadian economy. But he was critical of a Liberal Party that has, he said, undone the progress on the immigration file made by previous Conservative governments to speed up processing and eliminate backlogs.

The failure by the Trudeau government to stem the flow of illegal migrants has led to a growth in the number of people who think immigration should be reduced, and in those who have lost faith in the fairness of the system.

Most of all, he censured the Liberals for calling its critics racists and bigots.

Scheer said his faith and upbringing instilled in him a commitment to social justice that flows from conservative principles of individual responsibility.

He said his late mother had helped Syrian refugees settle in Ottawa and that they had reciprocated her compassion by visiting her in hospital.

The Liberals have said they will increase Canada’s immigration target to 350,000 by 2021; Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party wants the number next year to be cut to 250,000. Scheer said the numbers game is a “red herring” – that the economic and social reality will dictate the level.

But the federal Conservatives have long been pro-immigration – in 2015, levels were at an historic high of 271,833 and over the course of the previous decade 2.8 million people had arrived as permanent residents, mainly from countries like the Philippines, India, China and Pakistan.

Scheer said he would safeguard and emphasize economic migration, at a time when the mix planned by the Liberals will see economic class migrants decrease as a proportion, compared to family reunification cases and refugees.

“We need the world’s best and brightest to choose Canada,” he said.

The focus on economic migrants might reduce the Conservative Party’s appeal in immigrant communities that like the Liberal pledge to bring in grandparents. But Scheer attempted to patch up the relationship with ethnic communities that deserted the Conservatives at the last election by pointing to the things that unite them – hard work, entrepreneurship, faith, family, free worship, and respect for the rule of law.

“The Conservatives are alone in being the last true ‘big tent’ national party,” he said.

Harper won three elections by portraying his party as moderate and mainstream.

By refusing to pander to the resentful backlash against newcomers that has been a hallmark of authoritarian populism elsewhere in the world, Scheer has frustrated his critics and given the Conservative Party the prospect of growing support beyond its base.

Similarly, the decision to drop a previous pledge to balance the budget within two years blunts Liberal claims that Scheer will cut billions from public services. The acknowledgment that he will not be able to make $20 billion deficits disappear in two budgetary cycles is a recognition of voters’ fundamental hypocrisy – they want lots of government spending and lower taxes.

In a previous speech, Scheer said dramatic spending cuts are not necessary to balance the budget – “simply taking a responsible, measured approach to spending growth will go a long way”.

That sounds a lot like the budget balancing itself. But it is very much in keeping with his predecessor’s approach – incremental progress, rather than smash-the-system revolution. That doesn’t seem particularly scary or weak.

Source: John Ivison: Andrew Scheer slowly revealing policies that appear neither scary nor weak

From Campbell Clark of the Globe:

Andrew Scheer’s big immigration-policy speech was not about immigration policy, but about telling the country that he’s not a bigot.

That section of the speech, laying out the Conservative Leader’s personal commitment to diversity and equality, and telling racists they have no place in his party, was personal, and it was important.

Good thing, too. The parts about immigration policy were a bust.

Still, at this particular juncture in politics, it is notable that a big chunk of the Conservative Leader’s speech could have fit in one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s familiar paeans to diversity as our strength. Mr. Scheer’s speech was entitled Unity in Diversity.

That’s not only because Mr. Scheer has been accused by Liberals of stirring up divisions over immigration, and of being unwilling to unequivocally distance himself from anti-immigrant extremists. It’s also because there’s the People’s Party of Canada – headed by Mr. Scheer’s former leadership rival, Maxime Bernier – trying to feed off anti-immigrant sentiment and take Tory support.

Mr. Scheer presented a tribute to Canadian diversity that ran through the contributions of Indigenous peoples and successive waves of immigration from all parts of the world, closing the list with “Muslims afflicted by oppression and civil war,” and “Gays and lesbians escaping literal extermination simply for being who they are.”

He was going out of his way to respond to what he called “dangerous” false accusations that his party accepts extremism.

He has said that before. But this time, Mr. Scheer rooted that in his personal beliefs and his faith, describing respect for diversity and equality as “one of my most deeply held convictions.” He talked about his late mother volunteering to help Syrian refugees.

“I believe that we are all children of God. And therefore there can be no inferiority amongst human beings. And that equal and infinite value exists in each and every one of us,” he said. “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anyone else absolutely repugnant.

“And if there’s anyone who disagrees with that, there’s the door. You are not welcome here.”

Those words alone won’t be enough to convince everyone. Yet, they certainly aren’t the kinds of phrases you will find in Mr. Bernier’s speeches, or on his Twitter account. He rooted diversity and equality in his own beliefs. And it is important for Canadians to hear leaders of their major political parties say that.

The problem is that the rest of his speech was so full of unclear, empty phrases that it won’t reassure anyone about how he will apply those principles to immigration.

After all, Mr. Scheer wasn’t entirely wrong when he complained the Liberals paint his party as a bunch of extremists. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, for example, accused the Conservatives in January of planning to “militarize” the border to keep out asylum-seekers. Mr. Hussen had twisted a preposterous Conservative proposal – to turn the whole border into an official border crossing – into gun-toting fear.

Yet, Mr. Scheer still uses dramatic rhetoric about the immigration system breaking down, but proposes such vague or half-baked solutions that it allows his adversaries to fill in the blanks.

On Tuesday, he bemoaned the fact that tens of thousands of asylum seekers have crossed the border at unauthorized locations. He suggested, somewhat obliquely, that they are queue-jumpers. But he didn’t propose a real solution to change things, anyway. He said he would close a loophole in a Canada-U.S. agreement so those people could be returned to the United States, without acknowledging the obstacle: The U.S. doesn’t want to do that.

Mr. Scheer said he’d “emphasize” economic immigration, but extolled the virtues of every other category.

How many people should Canada let in each year? Mr. Scheer criticized people who promise to lower the numbers, “without considering the economic impact.” Presumably, that was a shot at a rival, Mr. Bernier, but it also applies to a politician he has courted as an ally, Quebec Premier François Legault. Mr. Scheer also criticized the Liberal government for setting higher immigration targets “without adequate services in place.”

So what should the number be? Whatever “is in Canada’s best interests,” Mr. Scheer said.

He didn’t give the slightest hint of what that means.

No, there wasn’t much immigration policy there. But there was something else – a public embrace of diversity and equality as a core principle. In today’s politics, that matters.

Source: Andrew Scheer’s diversity speech is personal, but short on immigration policy details
The Toronto Sun take by Brian Lilley:

Andrew Scheer says Justin Trudeau has undermined support for immigration in Canada, and he wants to fix that.

Speaking in Toronto’s northern suburbs in the immigrant-heavy area around the airport, Scheer laid out his plan for fixing the system while criticizing Trudeau’s handling of the file.

“Under Trudeau, a record high number of Canadians believe that immigration should be reduced,” Scheer said.

“Worse, Canadians have lost faith in the fairness of our system.”

This has happened, Scheer said, because of the inability of Trudeau and his team to deal with illegal border crossers that — in his words — “game the system.”

Under the previous Conservative government, immigration levels stayed at near-record levels and support for the system remained strong.

While the Conservatives were happy to bring in more than 250,000 landed immigrants per year, they also cracked down on those who abused the visa system or tried to get around the rules.

The Liberals increased the annual immigration target to 340,000 by 2020.

While doing that, though, they have also allowed 43,000 people to cross into the country illegally — mostly at a single irregular border crossing in Quebec.

They have also loosened visa rules meant to stop bogus claims, including from countries like Mexico.

According to reports, more than 400 criminals have entered Canada to traffic drugs for Mexican cartels, and asylum claims have spiked from 260 when the visa requirement was lifted in 2016 to more than 3,300 in 2018.

Scheer says these types of abuses have prompted Canadians to lose faith in a system that, at one time, was a success story for the world to emulate, “of different people — humanity in all its diversity — living together, working together, succeeding and celebrating together as one.”

“One country — the true north, strong and free,” he added.

Source: LILLEY: Scheer strikes right note on immigration

Terry Glavin: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Strong commentary, capturing the unfortunate missteps and resulting perceptions:

There’s no way around it: Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have a racist jackass problem.

This is not to say that Scheer or any of his MPs have consciously invited the affections of the country’s racist jackasses, and there are far fewer votes in Canada’s racist jackass constituency than you might think. But it’s a problem. And Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have it, in spades.

The most recent evidence is quite jarring. It comes in Ekos Research Associates’ latest annual findings about Canadian attitudes about immigration. Nothing much has changed in the long-term trends, but for the first time, the proportion of Canadians who say immigration rates are too high has merged with the percentage of Ekos poll respondents who say too many non-white people are coming to Canada. And that bloc is coalescing, for the first time, behind a single political party: Scheer’s Conservatives.

This is what it has come to. Sixty-nine per cent of the “too many non-whites” respondents say they back Scheer’s Conservatives. It only stands to reason that a fairly high number of these people are racist jackasses. And there’s growing evidence that sociopaths from that creepy white-nationalist subculture that congregates in obscure 4chan and 8chan chatrooms are hoping to mainstream their contagion into conservative parties. Scheer’s Conservatives insist they’re not happy about any of this.

“Mr. Scheer is clear. These types of views are not welcome in the party,” Brock Harrison, Scheer’s communications director, told me. “He’s stated that view many, many times. Sure, there are fringe elements who will tell a pollster they support the Conservative party, but, you know, those fringe elements who hold to these extreme ideologies have no place in the party. That’s clear.”

Fair enough. But if there’s nothing wrong with the Conservative message on immigrants and refugees and visible minorities, there sure is something wrong with the signal.

It’s not hard to make the case, for instance, that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have disingenuously attributed racism and xenophobia to public anxieties and otherwise reasonable Opposition criticisms of the way Ottawa has handled the upsurge in “irregular” asylum claimants who have crossed the Canada-U.S. border since 2017. “This kind of rhetoric drives these people [racist jackasses] to us, whether we like it or not,” Harrison said. “The denunciations from Mr. Scheer are clear. Every time something flares up and the Liberals try to pin this on us, we stand firm and we denounce.”

But the issue flared up into a bonfire of the Conservatives’ own making last summer, when Maxime Bernier, Scheer’s primary challenger in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, got turfed from Scheer’s shadow cabinet for a series of weird anti-multiculturalism outbursts that put him in the crosshairs of the Conservatives’ capable immigration critic, Michelle Rempel. In a huff, Bernier founded his own rump political party, of the type that sometimes seems to specialize in anti-immigrant jackassery. It was a golden opportunity for Scheer to purge the party of its jackass wing and invite them to run off with Bernier. It was an opportunity Scheer didn’t take.

During the 2017 leadership race itself, the House of Commons was in an uproar over Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s arguably outlandish motion to mount a national effort in the struggle against Islamophobia. But back then, the Conservative Opposition’s reasonable objections to Liberal hyperventilation were overshadowed by bizarre and paranoid alarums within the Conservative party itself. Several leadership candidates proved more than happy to cross deep into the territory of an Islamophobia they said didn’t even exist.

There was little separating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from the Liberals and New Democrats on the issue of opening the door to Syrian refugees by the time voters walked into polling booths and turfed the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election. Even so, there was a bad smell about the party, coming from the fringes, and the occasional burst of air freshener out of Scheer hasn’t done the trick.

We’re only months away from another federal election, and with a spotty record to run on, Trudeau has given every indication that the question he wants on voters’ minds will be the same as it was last time around: what’s that smell?

Canada is changing dramatically. A lot of people don’t like what they see, and among them are voters who are predisposed to simple explanations and conspiracy theories. The rural white males drawn to white-nationalist propaganda are perched precariously on the bottom rung of every ladder the Liberal free-trade vision imagines, with its phasing-out of the oil patch and its preoccupation with gender equity, “political correctness” and the concerns of visible-minority communities.

While the Liberals deserve credit for attempting to craft policy that addresses the strains and stresses of globalization and migration, Team Trudeau has invested its political fortunes in a “liberal world order” that is broken. The losers in the shiny, happy world of the Liberal imagination are too easily written off by Liberal strategists. The New Democrats have lost their hold on voters from the old working class. The Tories have picked them up.

The promise of relatively open borders, the free flow of capital, people and ideas among and between liberal democracies and police states like China and gangster states like Russia and theocracies like Iran—all of this was already losing its sheen when Trudeau won his majority four years ago.

The urban millennials who carried Trudeau into office were already alert to the dismal prospect of a future planet convulsing in catastrophic climate change. Now they’re stuck in low-paying temporary jobs, and they’re dealing with out-of-reach housing, high daycare and transportation costs and university degrees that lead nowhere. Holding out higher immigration rates as some sort of magic road map out of this mess is at best a flimsy political strategy. It’s not convincing, for starters. But more importantly, it’s dangerous, because when the formula fails to fix things, it will be immigrants who take the blame, and Canada’s recent immigrants are overwhelmingly people of colour.

It’s not good enough for Scheer to get better at dealing with the occasional flare-ups that leave him looking like the hillbilly caricature Liberals like to make of him. He needs to openly admit that the Conservatives have a problem. He needs to clearly and emphatically demonstrate that he means what he says, that his party is not open to voters who scapegoat immigrants and hold fast to the view that there are too many non-white people coming to Canada. He needs to do something about it.

He needs to show them the door and invite them to leave. Whatever numbers he’ll lose to Mad Max Bernier, he’ll pick up from more centrist voters who’ve grown weary of Trudeau’s “woke” politics, with its wardrobe of groovy socks and a photo album filled with glamour magazine spreads where a portfolio of policy accomplishments should be.

But whatever the faults that can be laid at the feet of the Liberals, it’s Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives who have the racist jackass problem. And however much they genuinely don’t want it, they’re clearly not trying hard enough to shake it.

Source: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Scheer denounces white supremacy after Conservative senator questions threat

An improvement:

Andrew Scheer condemned “anyone who promotes racist ideology” after a Conservative senator questioned whether white supremacy was a significant threat to Canadian communities.

Scheer told reporters Wednesday that he “100 per cent” denounces anyone who “promotes white nationalism, promotes any type of extremism.”

“I do believe it’s a threat in Canada because we have seen, tragically, people lose their lives because of people who subscribe to these views,” Scheer said.

“I understand that the senator has issued a clarification … And I absolutely do believe that these types of threats are important for governments of all levels to protect Canadians.”

Scheer was responding to a question about Quebec Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, who suggested Tuesday that white supremacy is not a significant “threat to our way of life, to our communities, to our democracy.”

In a question to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland at the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Housakos asked Freeland to clarify her position that white supremacy is a significant risk to western democracies.

“With all due respect minister, I think that flies in the face of reality over the last two decades. I think over the last two decades western liberal democracies around the world would tell you that the biggest threats we’ve faced are extremist fundamentalism,” Housakos said.

“I can’t identify a single country in the world where governments are supporting white supremacist movements. I can’t identify governments around the world, democratic governments around the world, that are supporting that type of behaviour, certainly not in Canada.”

“I absolutely do think white supremacists and white supremacists movements are a very real, very grave threat to western liberal democracy. I think they are a grave and real threat here in Canada,” Freeland responded.

“The shooting in the Quebec City mosque is a tragic Canadian example of the same threat that we face here at home. So I absolutely believe we need to name that, we need to be aware of it, and we need to work hard to find ways to protect our societies and our people from it.”

In question period Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded Scheer denounce white supremacy, which the opposition leader had publicly done only hours before in a press conference.

But the exchange makes clear that white nationalism and far-right extremism — once a fringe issue in Canada’s political debate — will likely remain front and centre in the lead-up to the 2019 election. In March, Trudeau accused unnamed politicians of exploiting racism for political gain.

In a statement on Twitter Wednesday, Scheer shot back.

“Racism and white supremacy are threats in Canada and I condemn them unequivocally,” Scheer’s statement read.

“It is pathetic and disgusting that Liberals are inflaming these threats to divide Canadians and score cheap points.”

An aide for Housakos declined the Star’s request for an interview Wednesday afternoon, pointing to the senator’s comments on Twitter.

“No western, democratic politician condones extremism of any kind, including white supremacy,” he wrote Wednesday after Freeland released a video of their exchange.

“Extremism in all forms is a threat to our way of life, not just one (form) or the other.”

Source: Scheer denounces white supremacy after Conservative senator questions threat