August 13, 2018
August 13, 2018 10:45 PM EDT
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is photographed in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018.Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA — Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is taking issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated support for diversity in Canada, calling it a form of “radical multiculturalism.”
In a series of tweets published late Sunday in both French and English, Bernier says he believes promoting too much diversity could have the effect of dividing Canada into ’little tribes’ that cause division, erode Canada’s identity and destroy what makes it a great country.
“Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong,” Bernier tweeted.
“Trudeau’s extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa. These tribes become political clienteles to be bought with taxpayers (money) and special privileges.”
Since the 2015 election campaign, Trudeau has championed diversity as a key feature of what makes Canada strong and has repeated that message in many of his public speeches and comments.
On Monday, Bernier posted two more tweets insisting that he’s not against diversity in Canada, but is opposed to “pushing for ever more of it.”
Bernier, who narrowly lost the leadership of the Conservative party last year, has been a vocal critic not only of the Trudeau government but of his own party’s position on supply management and was stripped of his role as an opposition critic in June.
In his latest tweet, Bernier says, “Something infinitely diverse has no core identity and ceases to exist.”
The comments have drawn sharp criticism from several partisans, including Liberal MP Marc Miller, who called on Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to clarify whether the party supports Bernier’s views.
Scheer’s spokesperson Brock Harrison issued a statement Monday expressing support for the idea of diversity, but without specifically mentioning Bernier or his comments.
“Canada has been built by people from all over the world coming here to enjoy the freedom, prosperity and equality that our country offers,” Harrison said.
“Conservatives will continue to recognize and celebrate the contributions made to Canada from people from diverse backgrounds that have enriched our history and our society.”
Scheer would have nothing further to say on the matter, Harrison added.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel was among those who took issue with Bernier’s comments. In her own series of tweets Sunday, she criticized both Trudeau for his government’s immigration policy and also “those who make claims that Canada is becoming a ghettoized state.”
“From a political perspective, it’s equally easy to say ’diversity is our strength, #welcometocanada’ as it is to infer Canada’s pluralism has failed, if neither claim is backed up by data or policy,” Rempel wrote.
“I am so bone weary of watching both sides of this debate be watered down into politically correct, puerile, or flat-out wrong arguments just for political expediency’s sake. All of you who engage in this are cowards.”
Conservative strategist Carl Vallee defended Bernier’s comments saying he believes they do not put him at odds with the party. He said Bernier’s viewpoint is shared by many Conservatives and Canadians.
“The view expressed is one that agreed with multiculturalism, just not the extreme version proposed by Justin Trudeau,” said Vallee, who formerly worked as a press secretary for Stephen Harper and is now at Hatley Strategies in Montreal.
“Mr. Trudeau’s version of multiculturalism is more focused on creating public policy by segmenting Canadians (into) groups based on their race and religion. This was very obvious in the last federal budget that talked about ’racialized’ Canadians. More and more Canadians want politicians to focus on what unites us, not what divides us,” Vallee said.
Trudeau, meanwhile, remained undeterred from repeating his mantra that “differences are always a source strength in Canada,” during a speech Monday in Prince Edward Island.
“If there’s something I know whenever I look out over a crowd anywhere in Canada, it’s that the different ages, the different faces, the different backgrounds — those are incredible sources of strength and resilience for our community,” he told a crowd of supporters in Charlottetown.
“These are things that make us strong. Our differences are always a source of strength in Canada.”
The Liberal Party used the issue to send out a fundraising appeal on Monday night, asking would-be donors to “chip in now to stop Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives from trying to divide us any further.”
“Once again they’re showing that they are entirely out of touch with Canadians and this country’s commitment to inclusion,” the letter stated.