Maxime Bernier Opens the Diversity Debate

What lunacy is this?

Maxime Bernier’s twitter rant condemning Justin Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism” policies ended with Bernier exiting stage (far) right, Andrew Scheer promising to fight asylum seekers who jump the queue and Michelle Rempel announcing the “Pathway to Canada” tour to consult with Canadians about immigration issues.

Assuming Mr Bernier wanted Canadians to take his twitter rant seriously and not as an attempt to make Mr Scheer’s life miserable, it would have been helpful if he’d been more specific about his concerns and double checked his allegations against the facts.

Illegals jumping the queue?

Most of Canada’s refugee claimants enter the country through official entry points but since the start of the Trump presidency in 2017, 31,000 people came through unofficial entry points and were transported to official entry points to make an application for refugee status.

There are two things to note about this process.

First, immigration lawyers say this is not an illegal entry, nor is it a violation of the immigration laws if asylum seekers check in at an official entry point.

Second, asylum seekers are not “jumping the queue” because the immigration stream which includes refugees coming from abroad is a separate stream from the asylum stream.  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada processes immigration claims, the Immigration and Refugee Board decides asylum claims.

IRCC is clear that asylum seekers who cross into Canada at unofficial points are not jumping the queue and taking the places of refugees because they are in a different stream.

Either Mr Bernier, Ms Rempel and Mr Scheer are unaware of this distinction or they simply don’t care that what they’re saying is not true.

Too much diversity?

It’s unclear what Mr Bernier means by “too much diversity” but surely he’s not referring to the refugees who make up less than one percent (0.13%) of Canada’s population.


Maxime Bernier former CPC MP

Perhaps his fear that “too much diversity” will shred Canadian values is based on an increase in diversity from all sources.

In addition to refugees and asylum seekers, immigrants come to Canada as:

  • Applicants for permanent resident status after obtaining a work or study permit
  • Applicants under the Economic Immigration Program who have the required language skills, education, work experience, and financial means
  • Family sponsorship applicants (spouses, children, parents or grandparents of Canadians or permanent residents)
  • Applicants to a provincial Express Entry program which grants them 600 Comprehensive Ranking System points and virtually guarantees they’ll be granted permanent resident status

Mr Bernier has not said which class of immigrant creates “too much diversity”, all he said was “too much diversity” is bad because “Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist.”

He made it sound like an immutable law of physics but failed to support it with data.

The little tribes  

Mr Bernier warned that too much diversity will divide Canada into “little tribes” who “want to live apart in their ghetto” and refuse to integrate into Canadian society.  Presumably these “little tribes” would hive themselves off based on their ethnicity.

Let’s look at the data.

Visible minorities made up 22.3% of the total population in 2016.  That’s a 1.7% increase over the 20.6% reported by Stats Canada in 2011 when Stephen Harper was prime minister.  One wonders what it is about the 1.7% uptick that unhinged Mr Bernier.

Twenty-five percent of all visible minorities are South Asian, followed by Chinese (21%), Black (16%), Filipino (10%), and Latin American (6%).  They are better educated than the general population—68.9% have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 64.1% in the general population—and are expected to make up one-third of the population by 2036.  (Is that it? Is 33% too much? If so, why?)

Perhaps Mr Bernier’s fear isn’t how many Canadians are visible minorities but how many Canadians have a different (non-Canadian?) religious affiliation.

Christians represent 67.3% of the population and 23.9% of Canadians are non-religious.  Muslims represent 3.2% of the population, Hindus 1.5%, Sikhs 1.4%, Buddhists 1.1% and Jews 1.0%.

If Mr Bernier seriously believes that 91.2% of Canada’s Christian and non-religious population won’t be able to hold on to their identity when exposed to the 8.2% of non-Christian Canadians living next door, Canada’s identity is feeble indeed.

Road trip!  

The Conservative Party has been around for 14 years.  Andrew Scheer has been an MP since 2004.  Maxime Bernier has been an MP since 2006.  Michelle Rempel became an MP in 2011 and she’s already “bone weary” of people who don’t use facts to support their positions (aren’t we all).  They served under Stephen Harper for years and only now discovered they have no inkling of how Canadians feel about diversity.

Ms Rempel’s says her “Pathway to Canada” tour will rectify that.


If the tour gives Canadians a chance to participate in a fact-based discussion, then it should reflect the findings of Ekos polls where Canadians reported a declining attachment to their ethnic groups while their “personal sense of belonging” to Canada remains strong.

If, on the other hand, the tour is a propaganda device to sow confusion and fear while slagging Liberal immigration policies in order to win the 2019 election, it will be a shameful betrayal of all Canadians.

We will know soon enough.

Sources :

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26 Responses to Maxime Bernier Opens the Diversity Debate

  1. Douglas says:

    A couple of thoughts come to mind. Firstly, I caught the incendiary rhetoric of a 630 CHED / Corus Network late night call-in provocateur the other night and the clown was positively breathless in his ramp up to getting the “deplorables” to call in. Citing polls galore on how Canadians were mad as hell and not taking something any more, etc., etc. Talk about throwing gas on the fire in Fox/Rebel style. Facts and data we’re just not in the mix. No dialogue possible.
    Secondly, it strikes me that Rempel’s touring is just a gimmick to foment Trump style rally’s timed to get public funds to pay for 2019 electioneering campaigning. I hear the robo-calls already ringing.

    • Douglas, your comment about the media is bang on.
      Even media that isn’t blatantly pumping up the “deplorables” to get ratings does Canadians a disservice when it airs truncated clips. I heard Natalie Pon and Althia Raj debate Justin Trudeau’s comment to the woman who heckled him in Montreal. Pon, a CPC member, said Trudeau was wrong to call her a racist when all she did was ask a poorly worded question. Instead Trudeau should have had a meaningful conversation with the heckler explaining why what she said wasn’t OK and educate her on the facts. Althia Raj disagreed, pointing out the media clips were incomplete. The woman shouted questions about how much money is being spent on Trudeau’s illegal immigrants, Trudeau said her comments are “intolerant”, the speech ended, he got off the stage and went toward her, she beelined to him and said are you intolerant towards Quebecois de souche. (the ethnic white French Canadians who trace their heritage to the first arrivals). It’s only then that he says “Madame, your racism is not welcomed here”. It turned out she’s a member of the white nationalist group Front Patriotique du Quebec. Trudeau isn’t stupid, he knows racism when he sees it and calls it out as he should.
      What I don’t understand is why racists get mad when you call them racists. What do they want us to do, pat them on the head and say it’s all right? It’s not all right and it never will be and the sooner they figure that out, the better.

  2. Brunswick says:

    “If, on the other hand, the tour is a propaganda device to sow confusion and fear while slagging Liberal immigration policies in order to win the 2019 election, it will be a shameful betrayal of all Canadians.

    We will know soon enough.”

    Pretty sure with all the dogwhistles eminating from the Cons and Mad Max, we already know the answer.

    The Question is, will White Nationalism sell?

    • Brunswick, you’ve identified the critical issue here. Bernier’s tweets weren’t a temporary aberration and Scheer’s reluctance to squarely address them are indicative of what’s really at stake here: the core ideology of the Canadian Conservative movement. Is it going to fall into line with conservative movements around the world which are led by politicians pushing a xenophobic, quasi-racist agenda of white nationalism or will Canadian conservatives be more moderate? Bernier is betting conservative Canadians will fall in behind the Donald Trumps and Marine Le Pens of the world. He might be right given that Canadian conservatives are comfortable electing leaders like Doug Ford and Jason Kenney over other more progressive leadership candidates.

  3. jerrymacgp says:

    One wonders whether Mr Bernier secretly keeps a white hood & sheet hidden in his front closet.

    In all seriousness, the Cons even debated a motion in favour of abolishing so-called “birthright citizenship” in Canada. This is most definitely not your father’s Conservative party … unless your father was a Grand Wizard of the KKK.

    • Jerry, loved your comment. It’s even more poignant when prominent conservatives like Erin O’Toole (who came third in the CPC leadership race after Bernier) describe the attendees at the Conservative policy convention as “3000 of our most active volunteers”. These bright lights passed a resolution to end “birthright citizenship” unless one of the parents is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. They say they’re trying to end “birth tourism”, but the resolution appears to be overkill because it could also make children born to people waiting for permanent residency status, refugee claimants, and asylum seekers stateless.
      Given what we’re hearing from Bernier and his supporters, one suspects this is its true purpose.

    • ronmac says:

      If Bernier is a secret member of the KKK then he’s 75 years to late. The KKK is long past their hayday.

      In the 1920’s 50,000 hooded KKK members paraded up Pennsylvania Aveune in Washington DC, as proud as peacoks. Today the KKK is only a shadow of its former self, just another fringe group on the margins, even though sometimes they get lots of publicity in the media as a way of hyperventaling public opinion.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        Some of those parades were in favour of Prohibition, of which the Klan was a huge (or should I say, “yuge”?) supporter, their case being that they didn’t want “those people”, including African-Americans—although they routinely used a different term for that demographic—Jews, recent immigrants or Catholics, having access to alcohol.

  4. Mare says:

    “… Either Mr Bernier, Ms Rempel and Mr Scheer are unaware of this distinction or they simply don’t care that what they’re saying is not true.” Or they’re just dog-whistling to their base and yes, it is a shameful betrayal of all Canadians.

    Thank you for another evidence-based piece, Susan. I’ve been away a lot and reading you always helps me get up to speed.

    • Thanks Mare. Many people say social media, especially Twitter, is killing evidence-based debate. This is true to some degree, but sadly, all the evidence in the world won’t change some people’s minds.
      I mentioned Natalie Pon saying Trudeau was wrong to call the Quebec woman a racist. Given that Pon is a member of a visible minority you’d think she would have been more concerned but she was convinced Trudeau was wrong.
      I came across Pon’s take on the Con Policy Convention (she was one of the 3000 delegates who would have heard the debate on a number of odious resolutions). She said, “Here’s the thing about the CPC policy declaration: it’s great to have a policy process where members have input. That’s also a weakness. Anyone can put forward policies, and delegate votes are likely not representative of the opinion of the membership.”
      “Delegate votes are likely not representative of the opinion of the membership???”
      Sounds to me that Pon, like the Muslims and Blacks who supported Trump, have their heads in the sand because a politician who dog-whistles to the grassroots will eventually have to do what the grassroots want if he hopes to stay in power.

  5. Kelly D says:

    It’s not lunacy it’s truth. Bernier deserves to be commended for standing up to the unconservative Scheer and for the Canadian identity!

  6. ronmac says:

    As usual, the facts paint a true picture of Canada’s diversity makeup.

    Unfortunately facts are boring. Stand up in front of an audience and say two plus equals four, three plus three equals six, etc, and your audience will fall aleep. But if you say two plus two equals five, well watch your audience stir and come to life.

    We humans are wired to react to emotion, not facts. Emotions are what get our juices flowing, not facts.

    • Yes, this is true Ronmac. The other conundrum we face is we forget that the progressive positions on social issues like same sex marriage and abortion don’t resonate with some immigrant voters. We assume they’ll vote for the progressive candidate who supports diversity, forgetting that they may prefer the conservative candidate who promises to force schools to tell them if their kids join GSAs. If it were me, I’d ask myself which outcome would be worse, the risk my kid will get beaten up by racists emboldened by the UCP versus the risk he’ll join a GSA without my knowledge. But as you said humans aren’t wired that way.

  7. ffibs says:

    Unfortunately we already know. A duck is usually a duck.
    Thanks for the data. I’ve bookmarked your post for all old stock folk I keep running in to.

    • Thanks ffibs. The interesting thing about some “old stock folk” is they’ve all come here from somewhere else. How long does a family have to live in Canada before it becomes “old stock”, one generation, two generations, five generations…?

  8. David says:

    The Conservatives are reaping what they have sown with Bernier’s comments on immigration. They have been for quite a while trying to subtly appeal to people who either dislike or are afraid of more people coming to Canada, in particular of those who do not look like them or do not sound like them. Now, the Conservatives have been fairly clever so far to try avoid going over the line by being quite vague and talking about reducing numbers (they won’t even say by how much), but wishy washy only appeals to the red meat base of immigrant fearing people so much.

    Mr. Bernier’s gamble is the Conservatives will continue to be wishy washy and the people the Conservatives have been playing footsie with will prefer his clearer message. It may or may not work. As you pointed out, the whole Conservative campaign is built on deception and falsehood, although it does pander to some peoples preconceptions and prejudices. There is no “queue” for people arriving at the border claiming to be refugees and there never has been. Obviously, fleeing persecution and fear of death is not the same thing as we would like grandma to come join us in Canada soon or someone who would like to get a job in Canada. However, getting across the border is not a free pass either for refugee claimants – the claims are reviewed and if not supported, those people are sent back

    Maybe this is all too much nuance for the Conservative leadership who seem to prefer the simplistic message that our borders are being over run. They like to throw around the word crisis a lot – which sounds serious, but is actually as vague or dubious as the rest of their claims. Unfortunately, some of the media is complicit in accepting this, rather than more rigorously examining the Conservative’s claims. Obviously the number of refugees coming to Canada fluctuates considerably for year to year based on what is happening in the world – if there was no war in Syria, there would be few refugees from there. For instance, we took in far more refugees during the Vietnamese boat people situation in the late 1970’s than an any time since, including now. Interestingly the Conservatives of that time did not go around like chicken little’s shouting “crisis, crisis” Perhaps that was because they were in the government at the time and xenophobia was not as fashionable then.

    Mr. Bernier has done us a favour by showing us his true colours. Perhaps he will do us another one by forcing the Conservatives to be clearer in their messaging, one way or the other.

    • jerrymacgp says:

      Modern Conservatives employ dog whistles to express their innate bigotry. Bernier has simply traded his for a bugle.

    • David, you’re absolutely right about the Conservatives trying to walk the line between dog-whistling to their xenophobic supporters while at the same time trying not to sound xenophobic. I was interested to see how Jason Kenney would respond to Bernier. So far Kenney has been critical of Bernier’s decision to leave the party, but not critical of what Bernier said about too much diversity. Isn’t he clever, our Mr Kenney.

  9. Dwayne says:

    Susan: It is very sad when we have politicians in Canada like Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer and Michelle Rempel who do not know how immigration in Canada actually works. It is even sadder when there are people who blindly follow what these politicians say on this matter. They blame Justin Trudeau for what is happening on the immigration front. If you do not meet the criteria for being in Canada, you cannot reside here. There is something else that these people do not get. There are asylum seekers and refugees. Both have been coming into Canada for decades. As for diversity, there are politicians, like Maxime Bernier who are using it as a fear mongering tool, and want to get people worked up about it. There are Canadians who foolishly think that crime (such as shootings or murders in Toronto, and Canada, for that matter), are linked to diversity and illegal immigration. They also point fingers at Justin Trudeau and claim that he is responsible for this and the increased crime. That is totally off base and false. When news videos were posted on mass murderers, like Bruce McArthur, hardly anything was said about it, in the comment section. He was born in Canada. Then, when a mass shooting happened in Toronto, and the shooter was a Muslim, there were comments galore on the news videos. There were people blaming Justin Trudeau for what went on. Furthermore, as soon as a mass shooting happens in Canada, there are people commenting on the news channels, before an investigation and an identity of the shooter is identified, and there are people that are commenting, saying it’s a Muslim or an illegal immigrant who did it. This is all very sad. So called “media” outlets, like The Rebel are fuelling this. We saw what they were posting about the Toronto man who used an van to murder and injure many people. There were many people who fell for it. I hope what these politicians, like Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer and Michelle Rempel try to do fails. People should be smarter than that, but many are not. Lastly, I do not know why there are people who think that Maxime Bernier would be fit to be Prime Minister of Canada, given the fact that he left confidential government documentation at his girlfriend’s house, and his girlfriend had known ties to a gang. Thanks for another great blog.

  10. Dwayne, I agree with your comments, especially the one about Bernier’s fitness (or lack thereof) to be Prime Minister. When Bernie announced he was leaving the CPC many of his Conservative colleagues (including Jason Kenney) lost no time in telling the media that Bernier was a poor leader, a poor sport, not a team player and didn’t pull his weight in caucus. I’ll bet these former colleagues didn’t raise these concerns when he was running for the leadership of the CPC.

  11. ronmac says:

    Any discussion about diversity in Canada can’t go by without a tip of the hat to the 75th anniversary of the infamous Christie Pits riots in Toronto. Yes, there was a time in this dominion of ours when Hitler’s name was held in reverence and the swastika proudly waved.

    • Thanks for the link ronmac. I was particularly struck by Cyril Levitt’s comment, he interviewed people who fought against the swastika waving Nazi sympathizers, and said they felt a sense of pride in fighting back because it sent a message that the Nazi sypathizers could no longer carry on with “impunity” as they had before. I’d say the people who showed up in Charlottesville and similar marches feel the same way.

  12. Jeanne Kimber says:

    Hi Susan I really appreciate your thoughtful and critical Soapbox articles. I hope you sent a copy of this post to Michelle Rempel.

    Jeanne Kimber Calgary

    • Thanks Jeanne. As for Michelle Rempel, I didn’t send her an article…I have a feeling it would have no impact whatsoever on her views. Although the question of whether it’s possible to get through to the Rempels of the world is an interesting one. It probably comes down to whether they are open to hearing an argument based on facts.

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