The Liberal government came under fire from the Opposition following a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers to discuss immigration issues in Winnipeg on Friday.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, Shadow Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government, calling their plan on immigration a “failure from the very top.”
“What we’ve seen in the last 18 months in Canada is a complete breakdown of that system,” Rempel said, holding court after formal press conference on Friday. “When the Prime Minister tweeted out the hashtag #WelcomeToCanada after the American administration made changes to their immigration system, what did he think was going to happen? Of course, people were going to come.”
Rempel said the current government has done nothing to extend the Safe Third Country Agreement past official points of entry, which she said would have reduced demand on the system.
Federal Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen said the ministers touched on several subjects during the meetings, noting that success will depend on a fast, flexible immigration system focused on a skilled and adaptable labour force.
“Canada’s immigration system is key to supporting our country’s economic prosperity and to strengthening our national identity,” Hussen said. “I look forward to continued collaboration with my provincial and territorial colleagues to support orderly and fair migration, to keep Canada globally competitive by spurring innovation and economic growth, and to build more diverse and inclusive communities through the successful settlement and integration of newcomers”.
Manitoba’s provincial minister added they’re moving forward with the rest of Canada on immigration issues and its impact across the country.
“Twenty years ago this year was the year we initiated the provincial nominee program, which has been widely adopted and very successful in Canada,” Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart said. “We continue to look to improve it in the future.”
Wishart said his comments would be limited because of the blackout due to the byelection in St. Boniface on Tuesday.
However, Ontario’s Minister Lisa MacLeod refused to stand at the podium with the rest of the provincial ministers and Hussen after she walked out of the meeting earlier in the day following a tense back-and-forth with Hussen.
The shun from MacLeod didn’t sit well with Hussen, who fired back at the Ontario government for what he called “acting irresponsibly” when it came to the issue of asylum seekers in the province at Friday’s presser.
“Ontario has, sadly, chosen the language of fear. They’ve chosen to, intentionally, use language that could potentially criminalize asylum seekers in the minds of Canadians,” Hussen said. “Asylum seekers have a legal right … once someone is on Canadian soil and claims asylum, we have an obligation, domestically and internationally, to grant them a fair hearing.”
MacLeod told reporters that she wants an apology from Hussen after his “mean-spirited” comments in a separate press conference.
“Maybe the minister should sit down and have a nice cup of tea, calm down a little bit and maybe phone me and apologize for calling me unCanadian,” MacLeod said.
– with files from The Canadian Press