Maxime Bernier says he is not against diversity. He just doesn’t want “more diversity.”
The failed Conservative leadership candidate, who has been making headlines in recent months for attacks against supply management as well as the idea that systemic racism exists, made more this week after posting a Twitter thread on Sunday arguing that more diversity and “having people live among us who reject basic Western values” will lead to “cultural balkanization.”
“Why should we promote ever more diversity?” Bernier, who represents the Quebec riding of Beauce, wrote in one tweet.
“More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us a great country.”
WATCH BELOW: Conservative MP Bernier slams Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism”
Those comments earned him criticism from across the political spectrum, including from those within his own party.
Michelle Rempel, the immigration critic for the Conservatives, suggested Bernier’s comments were a “seemingly premeditated tweet thread for fundraising purposes.”
In her own thread, Rempel also criticized those who make characterizations of the immigration system without data and repeated her past argument that the government is failing to maintain a planned and orderly immigration system.
“From a political perspective, it’s equally easy to say ‘diversity is our strength,
#welcometocanada’ as it is to infer Canada’s pluralism has failed, if neither claim is backed up by data or policy,” she wrote.
“The right, but more difficult path, is to plan to make our pluralism work.”
But in a new Twitter thread posted Monday night, Bernier pushed back against criticism.
“I did not criticize ‘diversity’ but rather ‘more diversity,’ and ‘ever more diversity’ as Trudeau is proposing with his radical multiculturalism,” Bernier wrote.
“Canada has always been a diverse country and this is part of who we are. I love this Canada. But there is a difference between recognizing diversity and pushing for ever more of it. Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist.”
Conservative MP Tony Clement, who supported Bernier’s failed leadership bid, also took to Twitter to criticize his friend and colleague after also suggesting Trudeau would do well to promote other core values like press freedom and the rule of law alongside diversity.
“Canada has many strengths, which combined make us the best place to live. Strengths like our democracy, free press and expression, the rule of law, and respect of human rights: these allow diversity to exist and grow in a context of mutual respect and understanding,” he wrote.
“Now to Mr Bernier: too much diversity will not destroy Canada, sir. (As an immigrant I feel strongly about this).”
WATCH BELOW: Conservative Tony Clement gives heated defence of colleague Maxime Bernier
He continued, writing, “Much greater threats are to those other core things: threats to democracy, rule of law, freedoms and defending human rights. Mr. Bernier has latched onto diversity as if it’s a threat and that is false. So long as we respect one another in a successful free democratic country, diversity is no threat. And I believe the great majority agree with this.”
Global News has made multiple requests for comment to Bernier on the matter but has not received any responses.
The timing of his tweets comes a little over one week before the Conservatives are set to hold their national convention in Halifax.
That convention will set the tone for the run-up to the 2019 campaign and see party members debate 74 resolutions on issues including immigration.
One of those, a joint resolution from the electoral district associations in Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon and Halifax West, asks the party membership to endorse a plan that “all persons entering Canada unlawfully from a safe third country will be detained and repatriated forthwith without process.”
Another also seeks to have any future Conservative government renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States.
That agreement has come under fire over the last year and a half as more than 26,000 migrants have crossed into Canada from south of the border.
Under the agreement, they cannot make claims for asylum at an official checkpoint because Canada recognizes the U.S. as a “safe third country” for migrants to make their immigration applications in.
But under the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, thousands with travel visas to land in the U.S. have instead been travelling north to cross the border into Canada at unofficial points such as Quebec’s Roxham Road in order to be able to make a claim for asylum in Canada.