Bernier promotes immigration limits in B.C. on first western swing of campaign
Bernier would slash immigration numbers nearly in half to about 150,000 people
People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier began a speech in Surrey, B.C., with protesters yelling "PPC, shut it down!" outside a hotel ballroom where a boisterous crowd frequently applauded his proposals to limit immigration.
Security officers barred a door before about a dozen protesters dispersed, some with signs in support of immigrants and refugees.
Much of Bernier's speech at a Surrey Board of Trade event focused on immigration, which he said requires a "discussion" that, unlike his opponents, he's not afraid of having in a democracy like Canada.
Bernier said he would slash immigration numbers nearly in half to about 150,000 people a year and 50 per cent of those would have to be "economic" immigrants, such as skilled workers and entrepreneurs.
He said he's against "mass immigration" but is not anti-immigrant and believes Canada should accept "real refugees," not those trying to enter Quebec and other parts of the country without crossing at official border checkpoints.
Bernier estimated 40 per cent of the approximately 45,000 refugees who have crossed into Quebec from the United States in the last several years will have to be deported.
"It's not me who's saying that, it's the Department of Immigration because they're not real refugees," he told members of
the business community and the public at a Sheraton hotel.
"They will have to be deported in a couple of years from now and that will be very difficult because maybe they will have kids and the kids will be at school and that will be tough to do that."
Bernier proposes erecting fence
His solution is to erect a fence at Roxham Road in Quebec, where many migrants cross because a road in New York state and one on the Canadian side are separated by just a few metres of brush, and to have RCMP officers stand guard to direct people to cross at an official border crossing, Bernier said.
He wants especially to discuss immigration issues with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at two leaders' debates next month, he said.
"I can tell you I'm ready to have that discussion. I'm ready to have that discussion with Jagmeet Singh at the debate and we'll see what he's gonna say.
"One of his supporters suggested Singh would label Bernier's policies as racist as several people in agreement laughed. Surveys suggest many Canadians want fewer immigrants, he said.
"So I'm not the only one. I must not be the problem," he said.
Bernier later told reporters he singled out Singh to have a debate on immigration because of the NDP leader's opposition to his stance.
"When he's saying that Bernier is having a hateful discussion, something like that, I'm not. I'm speaking about ideas," he said.
"We're in a free country. We must be able to discuss that."
People who are against his proposals are the radicals, not those who support his party, Bernier said.