Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with officials in Montreal Wednesday to discuss the influx of asylum seekers who have arrived in Quebec — and was asked to defend his past messages about welcoming newcomers to Canada.
Back in January, Trudeau tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.”
Critics say that message may have encouraged the recent surge of people illegally crossing the border in Quebec, but Trudeau said at a press conference Wednesday that arriving illegally over the border will not guarantee legal status.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
"You will not be at an advantage if you choose to enter Canada irregularly. You must follow the rules, and there are many," he said.
The mixed messages drew criticism from some of the PM’s opponents.
Despite what Trudeau said Wednesday, the Safe Third Country Agreement dictates that Canada actually must turn away asylum seekers who attempt to enter the country at official ports of entry, so people crossing at illegal spots are at more of an advantage. Once they cross the border, Canada has to process their refugee claims.
Trudeau met with the intergovernmental task force in Montreal to discuss the recent surge of arrivals, most of whom are Haitians arriving from the US. Haitians in the US who were granted a protective status could be deported as of January 2018.
Earlier in the day, at a press conference in Ottawa, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said that Trudeau's #WelcomeToCanada tweet set a specific tone and gave “false hope” to asylum seekers crossing the border.
“Our system now is in shambles, and I think a lot of this has to do with the messaging — the inconsistent messaging — that has been coming out of Justin Trudeau's personal communication shop,” she said.
Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, also sent a letter to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen this week, criticizing the way the Liberals are handling the situation.
“Many are now asking whether the Prime Minister was truly interested in following through with substantial action or if he was instead content with the spike in international attention and praise that came with it,” the letter says about Trudeau’s tweet in May.
Still, Trudeau has not agreed that his tweet sent an unfair message to those abroad.
"We have always been a society that is proud of being open to welcoming immigrants, welcoming refugees, and the reason Canadians are open to immigration and refugees is because we have confidence that it is going to be a success," Trudeau said.
Trudeau said his government isn't planning to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.
Global Citizen campaigns on helping refugees and those caught in crises and emergency situations. You can take action here.