Cabinet ministers' presence at yellow vest rallies sends 'wrong message' to Sask. immigrants: NDP leader

NDP Leader Ryan Meili says he was surprised and disappointed to see two cabinet ministers attend recent Yellow vest rallies in Saskatchewan cities.

Highways Minister Lori Carr attended rally in Estevan; Rural Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit was at Yorkton

Attendees at a Dec. 15, 2018, yellow vest rally line the Albert Street bridge in Regina. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

NDP Leader Ryan Meili says he was surprised and disappointed to see two Saskatchewan Party cabinet ministers attend recent Yellow vest rallies in Saskatchewan cities.

Minister of Highways Lori Carr attended a rally in Estevan, while Minister of Rural and Remote Health Greg Ottenbreit was at a rally in Yorkton.

People who attended a recent yellow vest rally in Regina said they were protesting against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the carbon tax and Canada's plan to endorse the United Nations migration pact — which outlines objectives for treating global migrants humanely and efficiently.

The NDP leader said his issue is with the language used and positions held towards immigrants, and suggestions of violence against the prime minister, expressed by some supporters of the yellow vest movement.

"You see the language being used online and in the protests that are very anti-immigrant in general,"  Meili said.

"You see lots of Islamophobia and other types of hate language, along with the frequent use of suggestion that violence should be done to elected officials in the province."

He said the presence of cabinet ministers at yellow vest rallies sends the "wrong message" to people who come here as immigrants.

"I think this is a moment for [Premier] Scott Moe to come up and make it clear — is he a supporter of the yellow vest movement, or is he someone who is going to be bringing a more reasoned and moderate and civilized approach to our political discourse?"

Moe and other government members attended a pro-pipeline rally earlier this month in Regina.

Premier Scott Moe speaking at a recent pro-pipeline rally. Organizers asked that attendees not wear yellow vests. (CBC)

The event, organized by Canada Action and Rally 4 Resources, was held to show support for the country's resource sector, including everything from oil and gas to mining and potash. 

Organizers requested no one come wearing yellow vests. 

Government response

CBC News made a request to speak with Carr and Ottenbreit and was told the ministers would not be available for interviews on this issue.

The government providing the following statement:

"There has been a rising sentiment of frustration and disappointment across Western Canada relating to the harmful policies of the federal government. This sentiment has been spurred on by harmful federal policies like the job-killing federal carbon tax, a lack of pipeline capacity to get Western Canadian oil to market, and out of touch legislation like Bill C-69 that would essentially make future infrastructure projects like pipelines impossible to approve."

The government statement went on to say:

"Mr. Meili has attended anti-pipeline rallies where there were calls for 'no pipelines' and to 'keep it in the ground.' In contrast, government MLAs, like thousands of other Canadians, have attended rallies advocating for an end to harmful federal policies and to support the Canadian energy industry, its workers and their families. However, our government in no way supports anti-immigration positions that some in the yellow vest groups have put forward."

The government statement argued a record of welcoming immigrants to the province under the Saskatchewan Party.

"Since 2007, over 108,300 immigrants from over 190 countries have been welcomed to Saskatchewan, many as part of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). For the year of 2018, we've been allocated 5,750 nominations which could result in over 15,000 new permanent residents."

Protests involving people dressed in yellow vests have taken place in recent weeks in several Canadian cities, following protests in Paris that broke out over a fuel tax increase.

The Paris yellow vest protests later morphed into demonstrations against France's high cost of living, income inequality and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Yellow vest protests in Canada have focused on a range of issues, including migration and the federal carbon tax.

With files from CBC News