January 18, 2019 6:12 pm
Updated: January 19, 2019 12:05 am

Trudeau grilled on immigration, environment at Quebec town hall

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Ottawa’s decision to sign the UN compact for migration in no way limit’s Canada’s sovereignty or ability to choose its own immigrants, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday at an animated town hall meeting in Quebec.

The prime minister was cheered and occasionally heckled as he answered questions on a variety of topics, ranging from the environment to immigration to NAFTA, during the two-hour meeting in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.

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The most heated exchange came on immigration, after a woman asked Trudeau why his government had signed the UN Global Compact on Safe Migration without consulting Canadians.

Trudeau responded that the entire world is being thrown into a migration crisis, and that signing the agreement would allow Canada to share its approach and co-operate with other countries on matters of immigration.

“This is a pact that in no way limits Canada in its sovereignty to determine how and who we will accept as immigrants,” Trudeau said.

“There is a great deal of false information spreading on the subject.”

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The prime minister had to raise his voice to be heard above boos and shouted accusations as he blamed the criticism of the pact on the “politics of division.” He also pointed to Canada’s generosity towards the 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived in recent years as proof of the country’s acceptance of newcomers.

“I believe we were justified in continuing to show our leadership on immigration towards the entire world,” Trudeau said, to both boos and applause.

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Several early questions focused on the environment, with one man asking Trudeau how he can claim to be pro-environment after his government chose to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Trudeau responded that economic development and environmental protection have to go hand in hand.

But he said Canadians will still be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, and while that’s the case the country needs pipelines to get its oil to market.

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Trudeau was also questioned about Indigenous opposition to pipelines in British Columbia, which culminated in the arrest of 14 people at a pipeline blockade in northwestern B.C.

He admitted that the way the situation had been handled had been “a mistake,” and said the process of reconciliation remains a bumpy one.

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“We’re doing our best but we still make mistakes, and it wasn’t an ideal or positive situation at Wet’suwet’en,” he said.

The evening event is the latest in a series of question and answer-style public meetings being held across the country.

Trudeau has faced tough questions on subjects ranging from pipelines to relations with Indigenous people during earlier town hall meetings in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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