The West Block, Episode 36, Season 7
THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 36, Season 7
Sunday, May13, 2018
Host: Eric Sorensen
Guest Interviews: Minister Ralph Goodale, Libby Davies, Jill Scheer
On this Sunday, the federal minister of immigration is in Africa to try and stop the influx of Nigerians seeking asylum in Canada, illegally. What will it take to stop the flow across our border?
Then, another NDP MP is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, the second one this year, and this time, a woman MP. How does that change the dynamic of politics, power and punishment?
And, a conversation on this Mother’s Day with Jill Scheer, wife of Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, and the mother of five.
It’s Sunday, May the 13th. I’m Eric Sorensen, and this is The West Block.
So, last week, the government announced new measures to try to stem the flow of asylum seekers trying to enter Canada, illegally. Last year, some 18,000 people crossed the Canadian border to seek asylum. In recent weeks, the number has spiked. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says more resources are being committed to process asylum seekers.
And joining us now: Ralph Goodale. Thanks for being here.
Minister Ralph Goodale: Glad to be here.
Eric Sorensen: So when we say about 18,000 came across last year, seeking asylum and that the pace appears to be even faster this year, are those numbers correct?
Minister Ralph Goodale: Those are in the ballpark. This is a very unpredictable number. People were predicting low at certain periods last year when the numbers went up and they were predicting high last year when the numbers went down, so you can’t be absolutely sure. But one would expect that the number will be higher this year than it was last year.
Eric Sorensen: And I guess especially in the summer. And last year, there were a lot of Haitians that were coming. This year it’s Nigerians we’re hearing about. What’s up with that?
Minister Ralph Goodale: It changes all the time. Earlier last year, it was actually people from Somalia and focused on the border crossing south of Winnipeg at Emerson in Manitoba. Later on in the year, the focus shifted to Lacolle in Quebec with the numbers largely being Haitian over the summer. And that flow stopped because of the action that was taken by the Government of Canada to make it very clear to people who were contemplating this kind of a move, which is clearly contrary to the rules, made it very clear, there are strict border rules when you come to the Canadian border and if you violate those rules, you will be arrested. And people were arrested. The normal security process clicked into place and we communicated that message back to the Haitian diaspora across the United States and once the message was clearly heard and understood, those numbers dropped dramatically.
Eric Sorensen: And Minister Hussen now, is in Nigeria because it seems like there are people trying to game the system. They have the wherewithal to get from somewhere far away in the world, get a visitor’s visa to the United States and come to the Canadian border, and then oh, I need to claim asylum.
Minister Ralph Goodale: We’ve raised this with both the Nigerian government, and Ahmed is doing that again this week, and also with the American government because these people appear to be travelling on legitimate valid U.S. visas, U.S. travel documents. That’s how they get from Nigeria to North America, but then they only stay in the United States for a short period of time and start heading the Canadian border. So we’ve asked the Americans to make sure there is no abuse of their travel document system and they’ve started to accelerate that process of investigating that and the numbers are dropping. We’ve also asked them when you detect a person that is already travelling in this obviously ill-legitimate way, interdict the travel. Stop it before it gets to the Canadian border and they’re working on that as well. So we’re getting cooperation from both the Nigerian government and the American government, but we need more and we’ll continue to press on both of them.
Eric Sorensen: Let me ask you about the Safe Third Country Agreement. If somebody were to come to the border and came to the border point, they would be just prevented because the United States is considered a safe country, so you can’t claim asylum at the border point. So they’re just going around that for the time being. But here’s what Michelle Rempel has to say about the Safe Third Country Agreement.
Michelle Rempel: “So my question is very simple: When will the prime minister close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement?”
Eric Sorensen: Is there a loophole that can be closed so that it will keep people from simply saying well I won’t go to the border point, then. Like she’s suggesting in effect, let’s make the whole border, a border point.
Minister Ralph Goodale: Well actually, if you were to that, you would simply diffuse the problem over a 9,000 km territory and make it worse. The concentration of the activity now in two or three points makes sure that we have a very direct focus on what is going on. If you were to spread that out over 9,000 km, you would actually just drive it all underground and make it much more difficult to control. But in terms of the Safe Third, that’s an agreement that has been in place now for 14 or 15 years. Any agreement that’s that old can do with some renewal and renovation and change and amendment.
Eric Sorensen: It’s being taken advantage of.
Minister Ralph Goodale: Well, we have raised, with the United States, our concerns with respect to this matter. They are considering if they’re interested in having a negotiation, but we’ve also pointed out to them, that a secure, efficient, effective border between Canada and the United States is as much in their interest as it is in ours. They have much the same kind of problem on their Mexican border.
Eric Sorensen: Canada’s a very welcoming country. Do we risk becoming less welcoming if we have these images of people just circumventing the system and getting in, even if it’s just for a time to kind of work the system?
Minister Ralph Goodale: People need to understand that crossing the border in a way that does not follow the rules, that does not follow the law, if you cross the border in that manner, you are violating the rules and the laws, and you will be arrested. It is not a free ticket to Canada. There are consequences in trying to evade due process. And we are determined that every Canadian law will be enforced and every international obligation that Canada has will be honoured and respected. We’ve managed to do that faithfully, so far, and we will continue to ensure that that is the case.
Eric Sorensen: Are most being sent back?
Minister Ralph Goodale: The process of adjudication is the thing you have to do first. Under the law, you have to determine a person’s status. Are they or are they not a refugee? Do they or do they not require Canada’s protection to ensure their safety? That adjudication process takes some time, but we’re putting more money into it, to do it faster. And then when the answer is no, if the adjudication done according to due process says no you are not requiring Canadian protection for your safety, you become inadmissible and you will be removed from Canada.
Eric Sorensen: Are Canadians getting an exaggerated picture then because you don’t have to see many crossing the border before you start to think well, my God, we’re being invaded. I mean, in terms of the numbers. I mean, in Europe, I mean we’re talking tens of thousands.
Minister Ralph Goodale: Well, the situation in many other countries around the world is much more dramatic, much more difficult. In our little corner of North America, we’re sheltered from most of this. We’re not immune to it, though. The world is going through the largest dislocation of humanity and human migration that we’ve seen since the Second World War.
Eric Sorensen: How much is the Trump administration complicating things for Canada because they clearly are sending a message to people that are in the United States or are possibly trying to get into it. Like, you are just not welcome and that’s pushing people to want to come here.
Minister Ralph Goodale: The Americans are responsible for their own positions and ideological stances. That’s their issue to determine. What we’ve said to them is if you’re going to change your policy, with respect to people who have temporary status in the United States, for example, the Hondurans are the most recent example. Make sure you give us lots of notice so this doesn’t become a surprise at the last minute. And so far, they are doing that, 18-24 months’ notice is typically what they’re giving now. So that gives us the opportunity to work with the U.S. government, work with those other governments and those groups in the United States, to say, don’t make a run on the Canadian border because it’s not going to work in your advantage to do that.
Eric Sorensen: Ralph Goodale thanks for talking to us.
Minister Ralph Goodale: Thanks very much.
Eric Sorensen: Up next, another NDP Member of Parliament faces misconduct allegations. Is the party response enough?
Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. The NDP is embroiled in another alleged sexual misconduct scandal, the second this year. The party has launched an investigation into Quebec MP Christine Moore, to determine whether a relationship she pursued with a veteran was inappropriate. This comes just a week after Leader Jagmeet Singh expelled MP Erin Weir from caucus after an investigation into harassment allegations, which coincidentally was prompted by accusations from Moore.
Jagmeet Singh: “Just because of an allegation that’s now risen, which we take seriously, in no way should cast any question of credibility about other allegations. This notion has happened far too often to women and is not an acceptable line of argument. If there’s an allegation, we’ll take it seriously.”
Eric Sorensen: Joining us now is Libby Davies, long time New Democrat, a former MP, and a brand new recipient of the Order of Canada which happened this week. First, congratulations on that.
Libby Davies: Thanks very much, Eric.
Eric Sorensen: Talk to us about the balancing act that you see that Jagmeet Singh is having to kind of conduct right now?
Libby Davies: Well, you know, I think it’s a really tough situation for any leader, whether they’re new, as Jagmeet is, or whether it’s someone who’s very experienced. Because when these issues arise around harassment, sexual harassment, when they become public, it’s very public and suddenly, you know, the spotlight is on and words become very important and how you follow up, what kind of process there is. And I feel that, you know, overall, we’re in this time of a massive shift in society, generally. The MeToo Movement has been so important, and yet so many of our public institutions, whether it’s Parliament Hill, political parties, the media itself or the workplace, we’re so far behind in terms of how we respond to it with processes. And so I think we all feel kind of caught in this moment as it becomes really difficult to sometimes navigate how to deal with individual allegations and incidents and situations that come up. And I think we see this with the NDP, we’ve seen it with other political parties who are grappling with the same issue.
Eric Sorensen: And with Christine Moore, I mean, now you have a woman being accused. We’re not as used to that. It’s hard to know how to fit that in and you can understand why Mr. Singh is saying well, that’s separate from this other, but it raises questions in people’s minds about well, is there some connection between the first and the second, and who is this person now? It’s that complicated.
Libby Davies: Yeah, I do think that there is more of an automatic response that we all have when the complainant is a woman or in many cases, many women. When it’s the other way around, you know, you have to kind of adjust and think, okay, is this what’s happening? I think the bottom line is, though, if you have a well-established, fair, transparent process; it helps carry you through that because the important thing is to do a review, an investigation to find out actually what happened. And if discipline is needed, then you take that discipline. And so to ensure that there’s education. I mean, again, I think everybody is grappling with this in terms of—I mean, I think there’s a whole line, right? There’s lots of stuff that we all know is totally inappropriate, right? It’s overt. It’s sexist, it’s sexual harassment. It’s violent even. I mean, those things are very clear. But there are also areas that are not so clear in terms of people’s human relations and the relationships that we have in the workplace or in politics. And so you also get into that not so clear area. But still, I think if you have a good process, it should be able to get you through that, to sort of sort out what really happened and whether or not there was wrongdoing.
Eric Sorensen: And I want to ask you a little bit just on that, with Erin Weir because I mean, you know, he failed to read non-verbal cues. And the first thought I had was well that just sounds like the kind of language used when it’s a more clinical assessment. And you wonder, well is there an area here that also doesn’t—hasn’t had enough attention where there can be a misunderstanding based on underlying issues?
Libby Davies: I think Erin himself has said that he knows that he’s socially awkward. And he’s also said that when a woman has said something to him, he’s backed away. He’s at some point understood that. So, I think it does raise the question of what those human relations are about and if someone is on the spectrum, are they aware of that? Are they aware of what they’re doing? How do we provide education and understanding in the workplace because obviously, I mean someone’s behaviour, even if they are on the spectrum, can have an impact on other people, right, around them. And so to me, it comes back to a very issues that we never pay enough attention to, and when I me we, I don’t mean just the NDP, I mean all of us, is that kind of human resources and the workplace relationships, right? We’re all busy doing our job, but how we interact with one another and whether or not we provide a safe workplace, where these situations can be dealt with in a way that somebody doesn’t feel like they’re being nailed to the wall and yet complainants feel that they have a proper process that they can go through and be heard, and that action will be taken. So, this is complicated stuff, and I feel like nobody has really got it right. And I think a big question is Parliament Hill itself, you know, each political party is dealing with this separately, differently, right? Parliament Hill, overall, is a workplace, right? Yes, there’s MPs, there’s staffers, there’s people who work for the House of Commons itself, so it seems to be a very muddled environment in terms of what is it that applies. And I feel that the Board of Internal Economy, which is the governing board of the House of Commons, really needs to pay much greater attention to this, overall, to make sure that there are good processes in place. I don’t think we’ve going the distance on it yet.
Eric Sorensen: I just want to ask one last thing, bringing it back to the leader. He’s having a little bit of difficulty from the outside it appears of kind of controlling the caucus. He’s not with the caucus all the time. He doesn’t have a seat in the House, should he be getting a seat sooner rather than later?
Libby Davies: Well, that’s his decision. I mean, Jack didn’t have a seat for a while. Jack was in Ottawa a lot, Jack Layton. I think it’s tremendously important to establish that solidarity and working relationship with a caucus. And Jagmeet’s a new leader; he’s out on the road a lot which is fantastic. But obviously, the relationship he has with his caucus is very, very important.
Eric Sorensen: Libby, thank you very much for joining us.
Libby Davies: You’re welcome.
Eric Sorensen: Up next, Jill Scheer on raising five children, and motherhood in the shadow of Parliament Hill.
Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. While Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is on Parliament Hill, holding the government to account, Jill Scheer is holding the fort at home. The Scheer’s moved into Stornoway last year, the official residence for the new leader of the Official Opposition. Jill, and their five children, five, moved from Saskatchewan to life in Ottawa, and to life in the public eye. For this Mother’s Day, we visited Stornoway to talk to Jill Scheer about being a mom.
Jill Scheer, thank you for joining us on this Mother’s Day conversation.
Jill Scheer: Thanks for having me.
Eric Sorensen: Test you right off the bat: Name all five of your kids.
Jill Scheer: Thomas, Grace, Madeline, Henry and Mary.
Eric Sorensen: Well done.
Jill Scheer: Thanks.
Eric Sorensen: Now, the ages are 13, 11, 9, 7 and then 2.
Jill Scheer: Two.
Eric Sorensen: What happened there?
Jill Scheer: A majority government. We had one baby per election from back to Andrew’s first election and the one gap represents the majority.
Eric Sorensen: What’s the challenge in raising five kids? And I can stop right there, but I’ll say it, what’s the challenge in raising five kids in this very public life?
Jill Scheer: The challenges are that feeling of wanting to protect your children. I think we always have that feeling of not wanting them exposed to negativity and not wanting them to hear negative things about their parents and so I think our instinct is to shelter them from all of that. And you can’t shelter them from everything. We could have the news on and they can see something or hear something on the playground at school. And so I think the hardest part is, wanting to keep them protected from the big political life.
Eric Sorensen: And with five kids, because so many people have one or two and kind of stop there. In my life, it was we figured the ratio one parent to one child was all we could handle. How difficult is it just raising five kids nowadays?
Jill Scheer: It’s hard, like it’s busy sometimes, a lot of the time. I always say when they’re at school it’s quiet and Mary and I are home, and when they bust through the door, all heck breaks loose. It can be a crazy place to be sometimes.
Eric Sorensen: You didn’t sign up for this, like you lived a probably ordinary life, people would say. How are you finding the adjustment yourself?
Jill Scheer: Good. Good. Yeah, there’s been an adjustment period of moving across the country and bringing all five kids and having them go to school here and some changes.
Eric Sorensen: You said you wanted to be able to protect them and I mean, all parents want to do that, and in this social media era, that’s hard to do. There are a lot of people that just want to get on there and be mean. And kids of famous people sometimes can be targeted.
Jill Scheer: Yeah.
Eric Sorensen: What are you going to do to sort of—
Jill Scheer: So far, our kids are a little bit young for that. They’re not really—haven’t really asked for—
Eric Sorensen: They’re just on the edge.
Jill Scheer: I know. I know, we were kind of dreading the day that they ask for a Facebook account or Snapchat or whatever, Instagram, I don’t know. But it’ll come and we’ll have to kind of deal with it as it comes, but so far, it’s just been me dealing with the comments and I tend to just sort of scroll past the negative ones and appreciate the nice ones.
Eric Sorensen: I read where the Obamas tried to always make sure they had some family time together because his schedule was crazy. Your husband’s schedule is pretty crazy.
Jill Scheer: It is.
Eric Sorensen: Can you find the time to be able to make sure that mom and dad both are around for the kids?
Jill Scheer: Yeah, we try to cut out some intentional time all together. Last night, we were all playing basketball out in the driveway and I think Andrew was still in his suit and I was still in my dress from the event we came home from and we just took off our shoes and played a round of basketball with the whole family.
Eric Sorensen: Your kids, we were saying earlier, they’re coming into that social media age. Are you prepared for the kinds of things that they might be coming at you with that are from, you know, kind of modern age. I mean, you and Andrew are kind of traditional values, maybe even old fashioned. I’m a little old fashioned in some ways, but are they going to come at you with things that you’re going to have to cope with?
Jill Scheer: I’m sure we’ll have to prepare ourselves for them to come at us with just about anything. But I was actually talking to my sister-in-law about this the other day because we were saying that there’s not really a precedent for this. Like we can’t ask our parents: How did you guys deal with social media? How did you deal with people trolling the kids? How did you deal with online bullying? We’re sort of new at this and we don’t really have another generation to ask advice. So we’re all just kind of swimming the same waters trying to navigate this, so hopefully we’ll have some wisdom when the time comes. But I’m sure it won’t be easy but we’ll take it one day at a time.
Eric Sorensen: Do you worry about the influence that’s there because the world is not as traditional as it once was and you’re still trying to be kind of a traditional life with the kids. How do you find the balance?
Jill Scheer: Well, I think all parents worry about all aspects of their children, so I think we’re not different from anyone in that regard. You lay awake at night hoping that they’re healthy, hoping that they’re safe, hoping that they have the values that you hope they have and our goal for them is to be good, good people.
Eric Sorensen: I asked my wife. I said, “What should I ask Jill Scheer about being a mom?” She said, “Ask her if there was anything that she wasn’t prepared for that she wished somebody had told her to expect when she became a mom.” For her, it was, she said, “She lost all her private time.” She couldn’t even be in the bathroom without the kids walking in on her.
Jill Scheer: Right. One thing I didn’t know was like before you have kids, you don’t really think about this, but it’s almost like a part of your heart is living outside of you, like something that you couldn’t love more. And you have to sort of like send them down the street to the park and send them across the street to a friend’s house and it’s hard. Every little more you let go is hard as a parent. You want to sort of put them in a bubble and keep them close and keep them safe, but you have to and we know we have to and we can’t be helicopter parents.
Eric Sorensen: How do you see your role as both a mom but also as a wife of somebody’s who has a high profile and potentially a very high profile in political life?
Jill Scheer: Right. Well, I try to be as supportive as I can. It’s not always easy because sometimes you feel sort of like you want him home and you want his time to be spent with you, and you have to kind of obviously, let him go and do his work. But I feel like my role is a supporter and I try to be that.
Eric Sorensen: Are they catching on to sort of that Andrew Scheer is a name that other kids are going to know from their parents even?
Jill Scheer: I think it’s just starting that Grace had a substitute teacher at school the other day and the kids in the class thought that this teacher looked like Andrew. So one of the little kids went up to the teacher and said, “Has anyone ever told you, you look like Andrew Scheer?” And he said, “Yeah, actually I’ve been told that before.” And Grace was like, that’s my dad. And she couldn’t believe that he knew who that was and that’s sort of starting, I guess that they know that the name maybe means something.
Eric Sorensen: Do you feel lucky?
Jill Scheer: Very, very lucky. Yes, of course, yeah.
Eric Sorensen: We feel lucky having had the chance to talk to you today. Thank you.
Jill Scheer: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Eric Sorensen: And that is our show. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Eric Sorensen. Happy Mother’s Day, and see you next week.
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