CALGARY – Canada’s Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, caused an uproar Monday after praising an 11-year-old Iraqi refugee who “already speaks perfect, unaccented English” after arriving from Syria last year.
Kenney posted various tweets (below), describing the refugees he met with Monday afternoon, but the above tweet was quickly deleted.
Canadian voters reacted with varying degrees of disdain and good humour, questioning what his public comments might imply for other Canadians.
A request to Kenney’s office for comment was not immediately returned, but the defence minister answered one Twitter user who asked, “So, anyone with an accent isn’t a real Canadian?”
In a series of four tweets, Kenney replied:
“Of course not. I have a serious accent when I speak French! I simply found it remarkable that a youngster who did not speak a word of English a year ago has learned so quickly that he sounds like he grew up in Canada. I meant it as a harmless observation about how quickly a refugee child has taken to living in Canada. I have deleted the tweet as some people were misconstruing it, and I don’t want the boy to be subject of any controversy.”
The incident comes four days after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s tweets turned another of Kenney’s comments into a trending hashtag.
Kenney said in an interview last Thursday it’s “unfortunate that some politically correct liberals have rushed to the defence” of the niqab.
“It seems to me that it’s the mayor and people like him who are politicizing it,” Kenney is quoted as saying.
Nenshi replied on Twitter, posting, “‘People like me,’ eh? Let’s just assume (Jason Kenney) means ‘thoughtful people,’ shall we?”
The Tories were also slammed Friday, after Immigration Minister Chris Alexander reminded people about last November’s “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act,” and announced a proposed RCMP tip line where people would be able to report any “incidents of barbaric cultural practices in Canada.”
A few social media users took it as an opportunity to sarcastically call out the government for anything they deemed “barbaric” using the hashtag #BarbaricCulturalPractices.
Some poked fun at the prime minister himself, but many used the hashtag to criticize the attention drawn to aboriginal rights and the high numbers of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
With files from Global’s Rebecca Joseph