by Angelo Persichilli The Hill Times
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should refrain from using immigration to avoid answering questions about terrorism. These are two separate issues, and he should stop boasting about his stand on immigration because the need for more immigrants in Canada has been widely explained, promoted, and accepted long ago.
Of course, we all should be aware of the presence of some fringe racist groups mixing up the two issues; for that reason it is important that our prime minister stops—obviously for different reasons—making the same association.
Last time it happened during a town hall event in Edmonton. He was asked a specific question about how his “stance on ISIS is going to help Canadians in any way?”
“How [are you] going to protect future Canadians, like my young daughter, in 10, 15, 20 years from now, when you are allowing people with an ideology that just doesn’t conform to what we are doing here?” the questioner asked.
At no time did the man asking the question refer to anyone but former ISIS fighters coming to Canada—not to immigrants, refugees, or to the Muslim community in general.
Mr. Trudeau could have challenged the questioner to elaborate about his “stance on ISIS”, or refute the premise of the question that he is “allowing people with an ideology that just doesn’t conform to what we are doing here.”
He did instead prefer to focus the debate on refugees fleeing conflict. He did it probably because he didn’t know what to say about terrorism (aside from some generalities he mentioned in the end), or because he tried to frame the questioner as an anti-immigrant, almost a racist. This is a well-rehearsed political gimmick to muzzle the debate: avoid answering a specific question (terrorism), then move the discussion to a friendlier field (discrimination against immigrants).
Terrorism and discrimination are both real issues and both should be addressed, but not by mixing them together using one to avoid talking about the other.
Terrorism has changed our way of life. We are over-taxed to pay for extra security. We go hours earlier to the airport to have our shoes removed, and we can’t bring a bottle of water from outside into the plane’s cabin. We are fearful of walking in the streets or going to concerts.
Today’s terrorism exists mainly because of ISIS. Yes, they have nothing to do with Islam and the Muslim community, and the prime minister shouldn’t talk about refugees and immigrants in the context of fighting terrorism.
I must agree with Mr. Trudeau when he says that immigrants are discriminated against even by many political organizations— including the Liberal Party.
I remind Mr. Trudeau that during the WWII, 3,000 Canadians of Italian origin were interned by the Liberal government of MacKenzie King, defrauded of their property and illegally detained for three years; marked as “enemies of Canada” without a trial. They were eventually freed without an apology or compensation for their confiscated property.
Unfortunately, while Trudeau has apologized to every organization or community that were discriminated against in Canada during the last century, and paid $10.5-million to Omar Khadr because the Canadian government didn’t do enough to protect him while he was detained by the Americans, his party refused even to apologize to Canadians of Italian origin who were in Petawawa detained by their own government (it was the government of Brian Mulroney that apologized in the nineties).
Probably Trudeau was instead referring to the Mafia and the discrimination that the Italian-Canadian community had to endure because of the crass syllogism, according to which, if every mafioso is Italian, all Italians are Mafiosi.
All racial generalizations must be fought, but the political exploitation of this generalization is worse.
I hope that Trudeau will do a good job in defending the Muslim community, not only fighting against those who are trying to associate them with the terrorists, but also improving the fight against the terrorists themselves who, suffice to stress, have nothing to do with the Muslim community.
I hope that Trudeau’s government will do a better job in fighting terrorism than his predecessors did in fighting Mafia.
However, most importantly, all of us must not confuse immigrants with terrorists and Mafiosi.
From Justin Trudeau’s town hall meeting in Edmonton Feb. 1
Question: I just want to know how your stance on ISIS is going to help Canadians in anyway. I need to know how you are going to protect future Canadians, like my young daughter, in 10, 15, 20 years from now, when you are allowing people with an ideology that just doesn’t conform to what we are doing here. I would like to know [what] your take is here.
Justin Trudeau: “[This] gives me an opportunity to talk about…first of all the fact that one of the reasons Canada is successful as a country, is because we have been open to people fleeing from persecution, fleeing war zones, looking for better lives for themselves and their kids. That’s the story of this country from the time first European settlers came to be received by Indigenous people…people were fleeing conflicts, poverty, difficult situations and came to Canada to build a better life for themselves. And successive people have, every different time. Every different wave. And we have welcomed them in. Waves of refugees, whether they were Ismaili refugees in the early ‘70s, the Vietnamese Boat People in the early ‘80s, people fleeing the devastation of the Second World War from Southern Europe in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Italians, the Greeks, the Portuguese and others. Our country is so much better for it. And there is a sense at one point that, ‘Okay, that’s enough. Maybe we have all the diversity we can have handle and we shouldn’t have anymore.’ I can tell you, when the Italian families settled in Montreal in the post-war years, they faced terrible discrimination, people who pushed back saying ‘No no no, you don’t belong here, you don’t speak English or French.’ Every wave of immigration has faced a pushback because of how they dressed, how they sounded, [what] their belief was, the religion was.”
Angelo Persichilli is a former director of Communications of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former columnist for Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and a former political editor at Corriere Canadese, and former Citizenship Judge