Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to heckling about irregular border crossers by telling a woman, “Your racism has no place here.”
Trudeau made the remarks after the woman interrupted him during an event in Quebec on Thursday to ask when the federal government would repay the province for the $146 million that Quebec says it has cost to handle an influx of asylum seekers.
Although the event happened Thursday evening, it was captured on camera and is now picking up steam online, with one of the original Facebook posts racking up more than 303,000 views.
In it, the woman can be heard asking in French about when Quebec will get the money. The province has been the entry point for the majority of asylum seekers to Canada so far this year. Ottawa has said it will give the province $36 million, while Ontario will get $11 million and Manitoba will get $3 million.
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In response, Trudeau lectures the woman about political etiquette.
“One of the important things in politics is to listen,” he tells her. Shortly after, he remarks repeatedly on her “intolerant” views.
After the event, the woman approaches Trudeau while he’s mingling with the crowd and asks if he’s tolerant of Quebecois. To that, the prime minister says he is “proud Quebecois.”
“Your racism has no place here,” Trudeau tells her.
Trudeau addressed the comments at an Ottawa event on Monday morning, speaking about intolerance and immigration.
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“I will not flinch from highlighting when the politics of division, of fear, of spreading misinformation is actually harming the fabric of this country,” he said.
“The fact is, we have a situation where there are irregular arrivals coming across our border into Canada,” Trudeau said, noting each person is being processed in a way that is “100 per cent consistent” with the country’s existing immigration system.
“People who are trying to make this sound like a crisis are playing exactly the politics of fear and intolerance.”
For months, debate has been raging over whether asylum seekers who cross between designated checkpoints should be referred to as “illegal” or “irregular.”
While some politicians, including Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister responsible for immigration, use the term illegal, experts have made it clear that Canada’s own Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) allows for such crossings.
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“There’s nothing illegal when you come and you cross an international border to claim asylum,” Jean-Nicolas Beuze, a representative from the UN High Commission on Refugees, told Global News last month.
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The latest figures show the number of irregular border crossings went up in July following two straight months of decline. Federal data indicates the RCMP apprehended 1,634 migrants between official crossings in July, 371 more than they apprehended in June. However, overall, the numbers are still lower than they were in the spring and much lower than the totals for July 2017.
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— with a file from The Canadian Press