Trudeau attacks immigration “fear mongering” day after CBSA exposes human smuggling network

Justin Trudeau once again employed his favorite trope by calling out “fear mongering” about Canada’s border security and immigration system.

It took a special kind of ignorance, considering only one day earlier Canada’s border protection agency exposed a network of cross-border migrant smugglers.

Hours before Trudeau’s remarks, two males in Kingston were arrested over what the RCMP call “national security” concerns. At least one of them is a Syrian refugee.

Though Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, chief Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts, and Trudeau himself have all accused critics of “fear mongering” in recent months, this instance is perhaps the most tone deaf.

At a town hall in Miramachi, New Brunswick Thursday night, a young Syrian refugee rose to thank Trudeau for bringing her family to Canada.

After a bit of chest thumping about his government’s resettlement of Syrian refugees, Trudeau made an unprompted pivot to the broader immigration discussion in Canada.

“There are people trying to create fears around the country around immigration…. The kind of fear-mongering, the kind of intolerance, the kind of misinformation that unfortunately is going on across the country and around the world is something that all of us have a responsibility to engage with in a positive and thoughtful way,” he said.

The “fear” about which is speaks is actually concern from large swaths of Canadians that there are people abusing the country’s immigration system, lawlessly traipsing across the border, and making false asylum claims. All of this is happening.

Trudeau should be more concerned with the problem itself than he is with those speaking up about it.

But his government wants to pretend there is no problem, that the border “crisis” is a right wing concoction.

Even so, on Wednesday the Canada Border Services Agency charged Olayinka Celestina Opaleye with allegedly smuggling 10 or more asylum claimants into Canada in exchange for compensation.

CBSA alleges Opaleye was operating as part of a “network of smugglers” utilizing Roxham Rd. in Quebec. If convicted, Opaleye could face a $1 million fine or life in prison.

The law understands the seriousness of illegal immigration more than Trudeau does.

This charge doesn’t reflect an isolated incident, either.

A Cornwall man was sentenced in 2017 for smuggling foreign nationals facing deportation from the United States into Canada for money. A Regina couple was sentenced last year for bringing nine illegal immigrants into Canada.

While illegal border crossing between Canada and the United States has always been an issue, American authorities say the smugglers are now more sophisticated and better organized than ever before.

In the United States, that means taking it more seriously. In Canada, it somehow means the opposite.

The charges against Opaleye prove what critics of the pipeline of illegal immigrants into Canada have been warning—that not all of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who’ve come to Canada in the last two years have done so with pure intentions.

Located south of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Roxham Rd. is supposed to be a dead end street, but is now a de facto freeway for illegal immigrants.

As many as 96 per cent of illegal immigrants into Canada last year came in that way. Instead of stopping it, the CBSA has set up a processing centre on site to stream line asylum applications. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been known to help illegal immigrants with their luggage.

It makes the human smuggling business particularly easy when Canadian authorities are doing the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively). All the smugglers have to do is get people to the border and Trudeau’s government does the rest of the work.

What a great industry to be in. Cross-border human smuggling may well be the only growth area of Canada’s economy under Justin Trudeau.

The government may wish to whitewash the problem by calling it “irregular” immigration, but it’s illegal. That’s why a woman was charged with facilitating and organizing it.

Our border is seen as irrelevant and our immigration system is abused. Yet Trudeau says “fear mongering” is the real problem.

Andrew Lawton is a fellow at True North. You can support his and his colleagues’ work with a small monthly contribution by joining the Heritage Club.

Michael Coren is no moral leader

I tweeted last week about a subject on which I’ve kept my mouth shut for years: Michael Coren.

Once a television and radio host with bestselling books on his Catholic faith, Coren was a mainstay in Canadian social conservative circles.

Now, the occasional columnist is an Anglican minister-in-training who reviles the social conservatives whose cheques he used to cash.

Coren went through a spiritual and political conversion about four years ago which, at first, was presented as an evolution from viewing homosexuality and gay marriage as sinful to a belief that the LGBTQ community is to be celebrated.

This rather quickly revealed itself to be a reversal of essentially every position Coren had ever publicly held, from abortion to free speech to economics.

This was chronicled in his book, Epiphany. When it came out, I interviewed him twice—once on a national radio show I was guest hosting, and again on my local show at Coren’s request.

Unlike many conservatives who had little time for him after his conversion, I supported him and defended him for two main reasons.

The first is that I believe anyone has the right to change their mind.

Secondly, I wanted to be forgiving and gracious as my Christian faith compels me to be. Though several actions by Coren have made that a challenging journey.

My relationship with Coren started in 2010. As an up-and-coming conservative blogger and podcaster, I was invited to appear on his roundtable CTS television show. This led to being made a regular, appearing each Monday.

I viewed it as a big break, for which I was and remain grateful to Coren. As most know, I was grappling with mental health issues at the time, unbeknownst to Coren and everyone else in my life. In December of 2010, I tried to kill myself, four days before I was to appear on his show again. (Don’t worry, they’re not related).

I was hospitalized for close to seven weeks, much of which I was unconscious. In this time, my family not only went through the emotional ordeal of not knowing whether I’d live or die, but also picked up the pieces of my life logistically, from finances to meetings and other commitments.

In this vulnerability, they confided in Coren, a man they knew I admired and saw as a mentor, that I had tried to take my life.

He was concerned and compassionate, before telling everyone imaginable.

Not just immediate staff, but friends and colleagues of mine, as well as complete strangers. I knew of about a dozen, and have learned of several more in the last week who were on what they described as a “phone chain” by a giddy and gossipy Coren.

By the time I learned about this I had already gone public with my attempt, so it was easy to ignore.

Later, I had an odd encounter on his show during an appearance alongside Hamilton public relations professional Laura Babcock and, I believe, radio host John Downs.

We were discussing some topic related to child welfare and I mentioned a stat about the frequency of child sexual abuse. It was a high number. Unbelievably high to many people, Coren included.

It was believable to me as a victim of child sexual abuse, something I had never spoken about publicly or privately.

When we cut to commercial, Coren playfully chided me about the statistic, whose source I can’t recall but remember to be reliable. Sensing my passion about the issue, his amusement turned to badgering.

“You were abused, weren’t you? Say it. You were, weren’t you?” I didn’t answer, but my facial reaction made it apparent. Babcock stared in disbelief at the exchange. (She and I talked about it months later, in fact.)

He actually sent an email after the taping acknowledging and apologizing for what happened.

I moved past it, and it was a moot point until May of 2011, when I agreed that I would open up about my suicide attempt for the first time, publicly on Coren’s show.

Coren was happy to get the exclusive, and I was happy to get the exposure on an issue I’d resolved to be an advocate for.

It would be just he and I for the first half hour, with a psychologist joining for the latter half. Minutes before the cameras started rolling, Coren asked if I was comfortable speaking about the sexual abuse.

My answer was unequivocal, as was my rationale. I said no because I hadn’t begun to sort that issue out in my own mind, so talking about it publicly was a non-starter.

He agreed. Or rather I thought I did.

Within the first few minutes of the broadcast, he asked whether anything happened in my childhood that might have precipitated this. His eyes were like daggers.

I couldn’t lie. I couldn’t betray the man who had given me such an opportunity. I couldn’t get out of it. So I told the truth.

Some might say I bear responsibility as the one who said the words, but I didn’t know what the next question would be if I lied. So for all intents and purposes, he outed me as a sexual abuse survivor on national television.

It was a truth I didn’t understand or want to talk about. A truth he only knew because of his prior insensitivity and insincerity.

I kept this private for years, only revealing it a week ago in a Twitter thread that’s led to many messages of support, but also challenging questions.

Chief among them, why now?

After the exchange, I continued to appear on his show every week. When he moved to Sun News Network, I would join him there from time to time as well. I even took over as his webmaster without pay after the man who had been looking after his website suddenly died.

I fully admit there was a selfishness to it. I was building a career in media and the exposure was positive. I also still looked up to Coren as a career model if not a moral one. Most importantly, I was trying to forgive. Each and every time.

And I have forgiven him. But as is often said, forgive doesn’t mean forget.

During my run as a candidate, Coren shrugged off a negative story about the NDP by saying, “I’d rather know more about the PC candidates who believe in debating the Holocaust!”

He was talking about me, propagating a baseless smear story from a radical left-wing blog, linking me with Holocaust denial because I’ve said unequivocally that I support free speech, even for people with radical views like holocaust denial.

Coren knew better, for he had expressed an identical position just a few years earlier. But still, he lobbed the shot in exchange for a handful of Twitter likes.

Earlier this month, Coren wrote about the fledgling Islamic Party of Ontario for Now Magazine, taking aim in his column at about a half-dozen former colleagues of his, including me.

I don’t mind him criticizing my position on the party (though oddly, he agreed with my conclusion that it’s a fringe party not worth fearing.) But he didn’t criticize my position on its merits; he he invoked the media attacks that were rampant about me during the election, regarding past social media comments.

Several of my old social media missteps overlapped with the time frame in which I appeared on his show, but never once did he raise a concern then. Though that didn’t stop him from using that chapter of my life to make an unrelated (and oddly unclear) point.

Coren’s objections to me were apparently held all the while he was referring to me as his “friend” on Twitter and in private conversations last year.

Though he hasn’t addressed my claims directly, he spent the better part of the next couple of days vaguely tweeting about “lies” from people he’d helped.

I didn’t share what I did because I was offended or hurt, but because Coren’s new friends need to see how he treats his old friends.

The man who now spends his days tweeting about how conservatives are not kind enough or sufficiently compassionate attacked one of his last remaining “friends” on the right.

It’s not becoming of a human, let alone a man who intends to shroud himself in priestly vestments.

On the Anglican Church of Canada’s website defining the necessary qualities for priesthood, two jumped out:

  • Demonstrates a capacity to deal maturely in personal relationships with family and friends.
  • Shows evidence of personal and spiritual growth and healthy self-awareness.

I had hoped that Coren’s approach to relationships would have had a similar epiphany to his ideological outlook, but that wasn’t the case.

Liberal’s identity politics may aid Singh in BC byelection

Byelections are always exciting as national energy, issues and campaigns condense themselves into disparate ridings across the country.

British Columbia’s Burnaby South byelection, one of three in Canada slated for next month, is shaping up to be no disappointment.

Karen Wang resigned as the Liberal candidate (and is now trying to withdraw her resignation) over a WeChat message identifying her NDP opponent (also the party’s leader) by his Indian race.

I tackle this in my Loonie Politics column this week, which you can check out with a discounted subscription by using the promotional code “Lawton.”

Here’s an excerpt of the piece:

It should serve as a cautionary tale to politicians who find themselves tempted to adjust their message based on whichever audience is in front of them.

I experienced what everyone running for office must feel at some point when someone asks you a question in a way that makes it clear one answer will get you their vote and another won’t.  If your view is at odds with theirs, you have to decide whether the vote or your moral compass is more important.

Of course, if a lack of votes equates to a plethora of principles I’m in good moral standing.

Wang may have gotten carried away by that same spirit, feeling in that moment like a throwaway line about Singh’s Indian background would help win people over.

Morality aside, Wang’s case proves that those who go down this road are likely to be caught.  If you privately make a promise or a claim you wouldn’t publicly, someone is going to demand accountability at some point.

Campus insanity no match for ‘An Unsafe Space’

Theater is normally a great escape from life’s absurdities. That is, unless a show is crafted around those very things.

An Unsafe Space premiered in Toronto this week, a two-act play written and directed by my friend Richard Klagsbrun.

As the play’s name suggests, it’s a take on the insanity that now passes for normalcy on most college and university campuses.

Set in a liberal arts professor’s home, the plot is driven by a meeting of students and faculty brainstorming how to block some evil, conservative benefactor’s $40 million grant, which they feel will stymie the school’s social justice bona fides.

Of course, their collective unity is threatened when Oliver, an aboriginal lawyer invited to assist their mission, ends up challenging their ideas and their assumptions about him.

The nonplussed Oliver is played by Craig Lauzon, the indigenous actor of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame. Opposite Lauzon is Precious Chong of Pearl Harbor, also something in the way of Canadian artistic royalty as the daughter of Tommy Chong.

The meeting is a solid reflection of the cast of characters you’d find on a 2019 campus. The bisexual Muslim, the intersectional feminist lesbian, the lecherous white, male “ally”, and so on.

Student activist Lisa Cooper (Jenny Weisz) consoled after triggering conversation with Oliver (Craig Lauzon) (left). L-R: Joanna (Precious Chong), Lindy (Jane Spidell), Patrick (John Jarvis), Jamal (Chanakya Mukherjee). (Photo: Paul Alexander / An Unsafe Space)

As I wrote in a promotional blurb after reading the show some months ago, “An Unsafe Space slays every sacred cow…offering a tragically funny look at how the perpetually offended interact behind closed doors.”

At a preview performance Wednesday night, Klagsbrun’s writing elicited the laughs it deserved, aptly aided by the cast’s adoption of their characters’ eccentricities.

Though my amusement turned melancholic when I was reminded how real these people and their attitudes are.

Take campus activist Lisa’s response to the simple question of whether she studies political science.

“I’m doing my honours BA in gender studies,” she replies. “But I may take some poli sci courses. It’s a natural fit, since the intersection of gender and politics are critical to understanding the hegemonic oppression imposed by western, sexist, racist, capitalist structures.”

Or one professor touting his colleague’s worth as a romantic partner.

“Don’t worry. She believes in all the right things,” he says. “Feminism, anti-capitalism, anti-globalization, opposition to hegemonic hetero-domination of society.”

I fear some audience members may view the dialogue as stilted and contrived, not realizing this is legitimately how the social justice warriors parodied in this production speak.

I’m no theater critic, but I am a student of the cultural trends that led to demands for safe spaces and the pigeon-holing of people in certain identity groups to believe certain things. That expectation from the characters and the audience is what makes Oliver so compelling.

The first act is somewhat circular, though I suspect this is a deliberate reflection of how a meeting of this sort would unfold in real life. The second act is a raucous, action-packed affair that I hope challenges the audience as much as it entertains.

My note of caution to would-be viewers is that An Unsafe Space is unabashed in its message. There’s no subtlety to it, though it shouldn’t have been written any other way given the subject matter.

Typically my criticism of any conservative-inspired art is that producers put the conservatism above the art. Conservative filmmakers are notoriously bad for this.

An Unsafe Space stands on its own, irrespective of its message. Though the message is what makes it so effective and timely.

Good as it is, it will never see the light of day on a campus. That is perhaps its greatest endorsement.

An Unsafe Space runs until Jan. 20 at Toronto’s Tranzac Club. Get show times and ticket information here.