Minister of Citizenship and Immigration fires back at Ontario Liberals: “I’m not going to take any lectures from a government that has not made this a priority like we have.”
With a war of words between the Ontario Minister of Immigration and his federal counterpart hotly brewing, the latter, the Honourable Jason Kenney was in attendance this past Saturday with a response, as well as more. Also present was Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal, providing information on the Conservatives’ push to create new ridings (outlined in separate article).
The media and stakeholder roundtable was held at the Brampton Soccer Centre, and was hosted and moderated by Conservative MP (Brampton-Springdale) Parm Gill. The event concluded when approximately two dozen members of the South Asian community presented Kenney with a petition reportedly numbering over 20,000. The group was speaking out in support of deporting marriage fraudsters, who dupe Canadian residents into sponsoring them into Canada, a common problem particularly in the Indian community.
However, the focus of the afternoon was on immigration and democratic reform. When Salam Toronto asked Kenny if multiculturalism is working in Canada, the minister was forthright.
“I think most Canadians acknowledge multiculturalism to be a positive acknowledgement of people’s culture and heritage combined with integrating that into the larger Canadian society, and as long as that is what we understand multiculturalism to be, it will continue to be a success story,” he said.
When asked how Canada has been able to differentiate its multiculturalism from European countries, where ethnic tension is ripe, Kenny suggested contrasting circumstances have played a role.
“In Europe, it’s a different situation,” he added. “First of all, they have historically grounded ethnic nationalist societies, and then immigrant communities came in typically with low levels of education and economic and social mobility, and this lead to ethnic enclaves and a lot of social tension.”
“Thankfully we’ve avoided those problems in Canada,” he stated. “But going forward, we have to be very deliberate about integration; we lose the positive public support for multiculturalism if Canadians of all backgrounds get the idea that Canada is becoming a bunch of separate ghettos; Canadians don’t want that. We want to celebrate what is best about our backgrounds, share it with everyone else and at the same time adopt Canadian values, have a deep knowledge of our history, and a respect for our laws.”
Kenney pointed out that Canada’s current stature as having the highest per capita immigration intake in the entire developed world should not be taken lightly. He also bristled at those that say his government is anti-immigration.
“One of the things that really does frustrate me, is that as the minister who has welcomed more newcomers per year than any of my predecessors, are those people – including some in the opposition parties – who suggest even talking about lowering level of immigration for economic reasons is somehow anti-immigrant or xenophobic. I think nothing could be further from the truth.”
“My number one focus is that immigration works for Canada, and that newcomers are finding good jobs,” Kenny said. “If we endure a period of economic sustained instability, like in Europe, I don’t want to invite newcomers here if they cannot find jobs. What is the point; it doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t help Canada.”
Kenney also responded to Ontario’s Immigration Minister Charles Sousa, who criticized the Harper government for reducing funds for settlement services in Canada’s most populated province. Stressing the need to help other provinces which have seen greater spikes in immigrants moving in, Kenney illustrated that over the last six years, Ontario has seen a significant increase in funding.
“Ontario is way down compared to 2005, in relative immigrant population growth,” he pointed out. “Whereas the western provinces are way up; Manitoba tripled, Saskatchewan tripled, and Alberta doubled in relative immigrant population growth.”
Therefore, while nine provinces and all three territories will see an increase in federal government funding for settlement services, Ontario will experience a slight reduction due to its decline in the overall share in immigration.
“By the way, I don’t think that that’s such a bad thing that Ontario is going down to a level of immigration that is proportionate to the size of its population,” Kenney added. “Here is the bottom line; right now an immigrant in Alberta is getting $3,000 for settlement services while an immigrant in Ontario is getting $4,000 for settlement services; our goal is to make it even for all provinces.”
Looking at the big picture, despite the decline Ontario, has still seen its federal funding for settlement services more than triple in six years, from $111 in 2005 to next year’s $350 million, according to the numbers given by Kenney.
The Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism then gave some choice words for his Ontario counterpart.
“By the way, I should tell my friends in the province of Ontario (provincial Liberals); if they’re so concerned, why haven’t they tripled their funding like we have? Why have they frozen their funding? I’m not going to take any lectures from a government that has not made this a priority like we have.”
When pressed to further define the line between accepting all cultural backgrounds and integrating them into Canadian society, Kenney did offer some exceptions.
“There are some barbaric practices, such as so-called honour killings, and female genital mutilation, that is not acceptable in Canada,” he clarified. “So we do not want people to misunderstand what multiculturalism is. It is not anything-goes cultural relativism.”
“I want to make sure that our first generation Canadians don’t grow up in a cultural environment that is more similar to their parents country of origin, than to Canada’s, and I think so far we’re succeeding pretty well in making that happen.”