MONTREAL – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians should maintain confidence in the immigration system even as thousands of asylum seekers continue to pour into the country.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Trudeau said that none of those walking across the United States border would receive any special advantages in their quest to come to Canada, stressing to Canadians and would-be refugees alike that border hoppers must go through the usual security checks and immigration evaluations.
Federal authorities say that through the first two weeks of August, more than 3,800 people walked over the border into Quebec, compared to the 2,996 who similarly crossed the border throughout all of July.
Haitian nationals form the bulk of recent arrivals, believed driven by a change in U.S. policy that many fear would result in mass deportations. Canada lifted the temporary restriction on deporting Haitians last year, set up in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, and many were sent back to the island nation, Trudeau said.
“We are ensuring that our border services, that the RCMP, civil society that support groups at different levels of government are all working together to ensure that Canadians can be confident in the integrity of our borders, in the strength and rigour of our immigration system,” Trudeau said.
“That continues to be why Canadians are positive towards immigration, positive towards diversity because they know that we always apply the rules and the laws that make Canada proud and strong.”
But when asked if the unprecedented number of border crossers was stoking anti-immigrant sentiments in the country, Trudeau condemned the “intolerant, racist demonstrations” that have been planned in recent days.
“The small minority, angry, frustrated group of racists don’t get to define who we are as a country, don’t get to tell others who we are and don’t get to change the nature of the open, accepting values that make us who we are,” Trudeau said.
“I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be a Quebecer and I am proud to stand with millions of Canadians who reject the hateful, harmful, heinous ideologies that we’ve seen in dark corners of both the Internet and our communities from time to time.”
Trudeau’s comments came hours before planned rallies in Quebec City involving anti-immigration and pro-diversity protesters that had the province’s premier voicing concerns about the possibility of things getting out of hand.
Right-wing group La Meute said it was planning a rally in a yet-to-be determined location in Quebec City against the flow of illegal entries into the province from the United States. An anti-fascist group plans to hold a counter-protest.
The call for a counter-protest comes after at least two Quebecers were identified participating in a white supremacist rally last week in Charlottesville, Va., that ended in violence and the death of a 32-year-old woman. La Meute suspended one of the two men from the group’s activities with a spokesman saying the La Meute dissociates itself from white supremacist and racist groups.
Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in front of Vancouver’s city hall as part of an anti-racism rally after reports earlier in the week that an anti-Muslim protest was planned, although it didn’t materialize.
Trudeau also expressed condolences to the families of Canadians killed in terror attacks this past week in Burkina Faso and Barcelona. He called the attacks “despicable” and attempts to pit neighbour against neighbour.
“These cowards will not win. We will continue to do as we have done, standing united and stronger in the face of hatred. We will be emboldened in our values, values of love, acceptance and strength through diversity. My friends, in the wake of terror, let us never lose sight of who we are.”