Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced more questions about immigration policy at the University of Regina on Thursday, in the second town hall he hosted in two nights.
This time, the question covered Canada’s borders — and suggested that Christianity and Islam “don’t mix.”
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A man who claimed to have lived in the Regina area for all his life told Trudeau he was watching what was happening on the “world stage,” and asked the prime minister what he was doing about Canada’s “open border.”
“I’m looking at the fact that Germany, France and a bunch of other European countries that stood up on the same side of the fence when tyranny was coming down on us, we’ve got an open border allowing this stuff to come in freely, and what are we doing about that thing in particular, an open border?” he asked.
“You’re talking about my freedom and everybody’s lives who gave here, everybody who put their life down on the line and you’re saying, eh, it’s OK, it won’t happen to us. It’s happening all over.”
Trudeau asked the man to specify what he was talking about. He responded, “the people are saying no, because these two cultures will not mix.”
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“Which cultures?” Trudeau asked.
“Islam and Christianity,” the man responded to some boos and heckles.
Trudeau then tried to calm the crowd, saying, “democracy only works in a country like Canada if people are free to express their fears, their concerns, their opinions, and we get an opportunity to respond to them.”
The questioner then said, “They’ve openly stated they want to kill us. And you’re letting them in.”
The prime minister then launched into a lengthy explanation of how immigrants have helped to build Canada.
“Canada remains one of the only countries in the world where citizens are by and large positively inclined toward immigration,” Trudeau said.
“One of the reasons we are that way is because Canadians have confidence in our immigration system.”
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He went on to say that Canada’s immigration system has done a “very good job of not just having people come to Canada, but setting them up for success, helping with integration, helping them thrive in our communities, helping them contribute to growing this country.”
He talked about Canada’s commitment to settle 40,000 Syrian refugees, and said Canadians across the country came together and “welcomed in Syrian families because these people were fleeing for their lives, from civil war, from conflict, from bombs, from a terrible future for their kids.”
The town hall took place in the very province whose former premier, Brad Wall, once suggested that the federal government should suspend its plan to settle Syrian refugees over concerns about security.
Statistics Canada data for Toronto has shown an inverse correlation between recent immigrants and violent crimes such as sexual assault, common assault and robbery.
The same research also found that, “the higher the proportion of recent immigrants in a neighbourhood, the lower the rates of drug offences, all types of violent crime, mischief and other thefts.”
Those results, the research said, were “in line with those of most international studies.”
“Thus, all else being equal, high-immigration neighbourhoods generally have lower crime rates,” it added.
Research on violent hate crime has also shown that Muslims are targeted disproportionately in Canada.
In 2017, Muslims were targeted in 123 incidents of violent hate crime that were reported to police, while Jews were targeted in 53 such incidents.
Violent hate crime targeting Muslims made up 15 per cent of all incidents. With Jews, just under seven per cent.
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The Regina event came one night after Trudeau was questioned about immigration — specifically Syrian refugees — at a town hall in Kamloops, B.C.
There, Trudeau was asked, “what, in your opinion, is the acceptable number of Canadian lives lost as a result of your policies on refugees?”
The question came following the killing of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen, who was found dead in a park in Burnaby, B.C. in 2017.
Ibrahim Ali, a Syrian refugee, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with her death.
“The generalizations and the danger that we get in, in tying in things like immigration policies to incidents like this, is something that I don’t know is helpful or useful in a diverse, pluralistic, inclusive society like ours,” Trudeau responded.
He said the world is “hardening its hearts to immigration” and that it isn’t seeing the “economic benefits of welcoming in people who are looking for nothing more than the opportunity to work hard and build a better future for themselves and their kids.”