The Current

Conservatives are coddling far-right in multiculturalism debate, says Liberal advisor

Thanks to MP Maxime Bernier's tweet last week claiming diversity will 'destroy' what makes Canada great, the Conservative Party has been beset with debate over politics of immigration, identity, and what it means to be Canadian.

MP Maxime Bernier earned a rebuke from Conservative Leader Scheer after series of controversial tweets

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is condemning the Liberal Party's approach to diversity, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of pushing 'extreme multiculturalism.' (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

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A long-time Liberal campaign advisor argues that Canadian conservatives are "coddling" the far-right in their discourse, despite Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's distancing himself from MP Maxime Bernier's tweets on "radical multiculturalism."

"There's a continuum here. When Andrew Scheer says to conservatives in leadership, 'I'm in favour of free speech,' he's saying there's a place in this party for people with abhorrent views and I'll look after them," John Duffy, founding principle at Strategy Corp, told The Current's guest host Ioanna Roumeliotis.

Bernier received an official rebuke after he posted a series of tweets opining on multiculturalism and immigration, on the eve of the party's national convention. 

Scheer pointed out in a statement issued last week that Bernier "holds no official role in caucus and does not speak for the Conservative Party of Canada on any issue."

Duffy said indulging in this kind of racism could lead to the populism that's apparent all over the world.

"So far conservative movement after conservative movement around the world has fallen into the hands of people and politicians who are advancing this xenophobic, borderline racist agenda of white nationalism — and so far, honourably, the Conservative Party of Canada has resisted this tendency."​

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Bernier speaks for himself when responding to his tweet last week, that said, 'More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us such a great country.' (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Conservative party delegate Natalie Pon finds the accusation of "coddling" a stretch.

"Perhaps there are some people who identify themselves as … far right, are white nationals or are white national adjacent" she said. "But I don't think the movement as a whole, and Canada, has reached that point yet," adding she hopes that never happens.

According to HuffPost Canada's Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj, diversity and immigration is a legitimate discussion to have at this moment.

"I wish we could have it without political parties trying to co-opt the message for whatever groups that they want," she said.

Raj pointed to Bernier's tweets as controversial for using terms like "extreme political correctness" and "radical multiculturalism" but said the questions Conservatives are asking are relevant.

"The concern is that facts seem to be omitted in the discussion, and I feel like Canadians maybe don't quite understand what the facts are," she told Roumeliotis.

Pon, who will be attending Thursday's policy convention in Halifax, hopes to see a discussion that solidifies the party's identity.

"I'd really like to see us move toward having a conversation again about the economy, about free trade, about what we're going to do to make the lives of all Canadians better rather than focusing on issues that seem to divide us and tear us apart as Canadians."

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.

With files from CBC News. Produced by The Current's Idella Sturino, Ines Colabrese and Kristin Nelson.


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