Martin C. Barry
Senator Leo Housakos is taking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task over some recent comments Trudeau made that compared the experience of Canadian immigrants to ISIS pro-Islamic militants returning to Canada after taking part abroad in terrorist activities.
Following an exchange on the matter in the Senate in Ottawa on Feb. 7, Senator Housakos said he felt “very troubled” by the response given by the Leader of the Government in the Upper Chamber, Senator Peter Harder.
Sen. Housakos said he thought it was his responsibility “on behalf of Canada’s Hellenic community, to ask Mr. Trudeau’s Government Leader in the Senate for clarification of the Prime Minister’s comparison.”
A curious comparison
“At a town hall meeting in Edmonton last week, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked a question from a member of the audience who raised concern about ISIS fighters returning to Canada and the long-term impact of their terrorist ideology on our country’s safety and security,” said Housakos.
“The Prime Minister responded by comparing returning ISIS fighters — responsible for beheadings, burning people alive, sexual slavery, throwing men over rooftop buildings because they are gay, just to name a few of their atrocities — with immigrants historically welcomed to Canada from countries such as Greece, Italy and Portugal.
The immigrant experience
“I come from a cradle of that community,” he continued. “My parents both immigrated to this country in the 1950s, and they were outraged to hear that from the Prime Minister. These are the individuals in the Greek, Italian and Portuguese community in Montreal that came here understanding they were coming to a Commonwealth country, to a great democracy, a country that respects human rights and the rule of law.
“They also understood — and I can tell you my parents always made it clear to me — that Canadian citizenship came with tremendous privileges, but it also has responsibilities. How does the Prime Minister possibly justify making this comparison, equating legal immigrants and those fleeing persecution with the return to Canada of individuals who are complicit in the horrific crimes perpetrated by our enemy, ISIS?”
Senator defended the PM
Sen. Harder responded: “Let me simply reiterate, and I do this as myself, the son of immigrant refugees to Canada, that I share and understand deeply the pride with which your parents inculcated the values of citizenship in you, as most immigrants have with their children and their children’s children. I didn’t see the interaction to which you refer, but I can only remind senators that this Prime Minister has consistently spoken well of Canada’s immigrant history and the accommodation and diversity of our immigration process that has allowed Canada to become the country it is today.
“At the same time, while individual immigrants and citizens have responsibilities, we collectively have a responsibility to our citizens, even those we would disagree with because of actions that they have taken with the rights they hold as citizens. We have to be vigilant in our programming to ensure that we do everything possible to protect the safety and security of Canada in the face of those who return to Canada after having indulged in the practices to which the honorable senator referred.”
Says PM’s ‘all over the map’
In an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia, Sen. Housakos described Prime Minister Trudeau lately as being “all over the map with some of his mis-speaks.” However, with regards to Trudeau’s comparison between immigrants and ISIS he said a few people in Montreal’s Greek community “expressed their complete hurt feelings on this issue to me – and legitimately so.
“When the Prime Minister is asked a question by a Canadian citizen at a town hall about repatriating Canadian citizens that have gone off and left the confines of this secure nation to go and support ISIS – our enemy – half way around the world, an organization that is extremist, and which has as its mandate to destroy our western democratic structure, and they’re hellbent on destroying and killing moderate Muslims in the Middle East and Christians driven out of places like Syria, they certainly don’t have respect for the pluralistic multicultural multi-faith society that we have here in Canada.”