As It Happens

Maxime Bernier explains what he means by 'extreme multiculturalism'

The Quebec MP sat down in studio this week with As It Happens host Carol Off to discuss his plans to create the People's Party of Canada.

In a fiery interview with As It Happens, Bernier says 'it would be better to have people who share our values'

Maxime Bernier announced he will leave the Conservative party during a news conference in Ottawa Aug. 23. The Quebec MP sat down in studio with As It Happens to discuss what he plans to do next. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When Maxime Bernier quit the Conservatives to strike out on his own, he vowed his new party would tackle, among other things, "extreme multiculturalism."

Bernier sat down in studio this week with As It Happens host Carol Off to discuss his plan to create the People's Party of Canada, which he says rejects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mantra that "diversity is our strength."

Here is an excerpt from their conversation. For the full interview, listen in the player above. 

In the middle of August, you began to talk about immigration policies and what you call "extreme multiculturalism." Did you do that because you hoped it would generate excitement about your movement?

No, it wasn't new.

The platform of our party, it's based on the platform that I had during the leadership campaign for the Conservative Party of Canada.

So I said that at the time that we must question the level of new Canadians that we're having every year. It's always more and more and more. I don't want our country to be like other countries in Europe in having a challenge to integrate their new immigrants.

You were talking about that Trudeau says diversity is our strength, "but where do we draw the line?" ... What is the line that you want to draw?

Diversity, it is good. This country has been built by diversity. But diversity in sharing of values? For me, it's not good. A person that wants to come to our country must share our Canadian values.

What are these values?

Equality between men and women. Equality before the law. Democracy and respect. Tolerance and the diversity.

I'll give you an example. If you have two new Canadians who are coming to Canada and one wants to kill gay people because they think gay people, it's not OK, and the other one says "No, it's OK, they can believe what they want."

So is it good to have two people having different point of view on that subject?

I mean, do you have an example of somebody who we said, "Oh, well you want to kill gay people, you can come in"?

It would be better to have people who share our values.

We're not going to move on before you tell me where this comes from —  this idea that somehow we're letting in people who say, "I'm coming here to kill gay people."

I'm not saying that. The people who are coming are sharing our Canadian values. I don't want that example to happen.

Bernier waves to the crowd during the opening night of the federal Conservative leadership convention in Toronto on Friday, May 26, 2017. He says his views on immigration have not changed since then. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Who is it that you're trying to keep out?

Justin Trudeau is always saying diversity's our strength. It is not our strength.

Well, killing gay people isn't diversity. That's crime.

But that's diversity of values.

And you think if we had diversity, we end up letting in people who kill gay people?

No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying we must promote what unites us, not always what divides.

I believe in this country, and I want people to come here and to celebrate our country, and what's happening right now is the celebration, it's always our diversity. We are spending a lot of money. If people want to keep a part of their own culture, that's OK.

That's multiculturalism. You said that's wrong. You don't want that.

No no, I said extreme multiculturalism is wrong. Extreme.

What is extreme multiculturalism?

When you're always doing the promotion of the diversity. For me that's extreme. We must do the promotion of what unites us.

So where does it cross the line for you?

When you have 49 per cent of Canadians that are saying that we have too much immigration in this country, we must listen to that. And I'm the only politician who was listening to that.

I'm saying to these people: Immigration is good. Let's be sure that the new Canadians that will come in tomorrow, next year, in 10 years from now, will always share our Canadian values.

What is your evidence that people coming to this country don't share those values?

I'm not saying that.

Well, you are in those tweets. ...  Here's another quote: "Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn't make us strong." They want to live in "a ghetto." That's "balkanisation." These people bring "distrust, social conflict, potentially violence." Who are these people, Mr. Bernier?

It's people who don't share Canadian values. 

There is a lot of things that's happening in Europe right now. ... Do you want that? No, I want my country like it is right now, being the same in 20 years from now.

One million people in the course of about 18 months walked into [Germany]. This is something that's happened because they share a border with refugee-producing areas. We don't. It's very, very difficult to come to this country. It's very controlled.

No, is not it is. We have refugees coming from the U.S.  ... In two years from now, we'll know if they're real refugees or not. The government is telling us that half of them won't be real refugees, they will have to go back to their country.

Refugees cross the Canada-U.S. border into Manitoba during the winter of 2017. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

OK, so 20-30,000 come and 10,000 get accepted. That's a crisis?

That shows that people want to come to this country. I want them to come to this country for the real reasons.

That's unfair for the real refugees that are waiting in camp and their life is in danger. And these people has to wait because the system has to process these people that are coming from the U.S.

It is not a dangerous country, the United States of America. So that's not fair. That's not fair for the real refugees waiting. 

You know there's two processes you're referring to. One, people coming across the border, they go before the refugee board for an assessment. The people in the camps, the people in other countries, are part of a resettlement program that Canada runs through the United Nations.

I want more real refugees. I want to help the people who need to be helped.

You tweeted ... "If you can buy a plane ticket from Nigeria to New York, you're not a real refugee." Why not?

I'm showing to people that people who are crossing the border, they are not in danger. 

How do you know that's the case? I mean, we know the United States is hostile toward refugees, so maybe he really is ...

What are you saying? Hostile?

Absolutely. We know that Mr. Trump has made that clear that he doesn't want people from certain counties.

That's your point of view. The United States, they are welcoming some refugees.

They have reduced their numbers considerably.

So are they hostile because they reduce it?

At a time when the United Nation is asking Canada and countries...

They have the rights of a sovereign country. They have the right to do what they want to do. And we have the right in Canada to decide our immigration policy.

So what are you proposing?

We just want to fix the loophole. But to do that, you have to sit with the American government. And this government right now? The relationship with U.S. is not so good. 

In August, you targeted this park in Winnipeg. You said that this is "extreme liberal multiculturalism" because a park was named after the founder of Pakistan.

Why celebrating a father of Pakistan when we have a lot of people? That's an example of celebrating diversity. We must celebrate what unites us. At the same time, destroy a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald?

This [park sign] was vandalized.

You're saying that I did that tweet and I'm responsible for that?

The people in the Pakistani community believe that that tweet led to the vandalism. You know that. I'm not telling you something new.

Are you serious?

The Jinnah Park sign appears to have been sawed off the same week that Bernier criticized the park's name. (Submitted)

There's lots of parks in Canada. Why can't they be named after people that represent the communities who are here?

They can be named. I'm just saying that it's an example of celebrating extreme multiculturalism.

The one thing that matters to you a great deal is that you don't like the policies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and what he's doing to Canada. And yet many Conservatives are saying that you've given such a gift to Trudeau because now you're going to split the votes of conservatives.

 I think that Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau is about the same. That's what I think. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, listen in the player at the top of this page.


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