'Not Canadian': Hussen, MacLeod exchange sharp words over asylum seeker 'crisis'

'Not Canadian': Hussen, MacLeod exchange sharp words over asylum seeker 'crisis'

A meeting between Canada’s federal and provincial immigration ministers ended bitterly Friday, with federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen openly criticizing the Ontario government for what he called a dangerous and un-Canadian approach to the issue of asylum seekers.

“They’ve chosen to use false language with respect to so-called queue-jumping, when we have told them over and over again there is no such thing,” Hussen told reporters in Winnipeg at the closing press conference.

“Asylum seekers are processed in a separate queue at the IRB and all the other regular immigration programs are processed by IRCC, and conflating the two knowingly is irresponsible, it’s divisive, it’s fearmongering and it’s not Canadian, and it’s very dangerous.”

Hussen criticized Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod — who is also responsible for the immigration file — for walking away from discussions between the other immigration ministers and for refusing to sign the official communique issued after the meetings.

The ministers did speak about asylum seekers from the U.S. crossing the border into Canada irregularly, but they also met to discuss economic immigration, francophone immigration, settlement and integration and how to attract new workers to Canada, Hussen said.

“So we talked about all those issues, but unfortunately Ontario has chosen to walk away from the table. They have failed their municipalities because they are saying they do not have anything to do with this,” he said. “The fact is that temporary housing and housing issues are a shared responsibility and we have to work together, and we are committed to working together.

“I’ve spoken to Mayor (John) Tory of Toronto and I have told him that the government of Canada will have the backs of all municipalities affected by this and we will be there for Ontario.”

MacLeod did not take the attack lightly, telling reporters after Hussen left the podium that it was the federal minister who did not want to collaborate on the issue of irregular migration.

“I am not going to get into a debate on semantics with the minister,” she said, “but I did request that he take into consideration these exorbitant costs which … is about $175 million on top of the $3 million that Ontario provided to the Red Cross.”

“I was expecting that we would be able to collaborate on that. Instead, what I saw here today was … him calling me un-Canadian, which I take great offence to. And I so hope he will apologize and reconsider his language.

“There is a problem at the border, the border must be enforced and … Ontario should be made whole for all of the costs that we’ve incurred.”

Published at Fri, 13 Jul 2018 17:23:44 -0400