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Thời Mới had the honour to have an exclusive interview with Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. (Photo: Thời Mới)

Exclusive: Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on fighting fear with facts, and blocking human rights abusers

The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, attended the Tết Festival 2019 by the Vietnamese community in North York and vicinities on January 26, 2019.

In an exclusive interview by the Vietnamese weekly Thời Mới-Canada, Minister Hussen discussed the Liberal government’s immigration plans and approach.

(Click here for the Vietnamese version.)

by Phạm Vũ Lửa Hạ

Thời Mới: First of all, can you summarize the Liberal overall platform for immigration this year?

Ahmed Hussen: This year we have a target of landing 330000 permanent residents. Out of that, about 60 percent will be economic immigrants who are coming to fill jobs, who are coming to bring  skills. We have about 20 percent in the family reunification category.

And also refugees. Our target for privately-sponsored refugees is about 19000, and government-assisted refugees about 8500, and some protected persons.

Two days ago I announced Canada’s first rural immigration pilot program which will
targets immigration to go to rural areas, not the big cities as a way to help them fill the jobs.

Thời Mới: What about retention for this new program? The Atlantic Program has that retention problem.

Ahmed Hussen: Not anymore. The first year, in 2017, there were some issues with uptake and retention, but in 2018 the program has gone really well. In fact, I had to go there and gave them more numbers. So it’s successful. And I don’t know if you saw an article that came out recently about a week and a half ago when Nova Scotia was celebrating the fact that they had the first population increase in Nova Scotia in a long time, and that’s because of the Atlantic Program.

So the Atlantic Program is going well; the number of employers using it has doubled in Nova Scotia and other places. The same thing with PEI: population growth. So it’s really working.

By the way, the rural program is supposed to be similar to the Atlantic Program, but
for the rest of the country.

Thời Mới: Regarding the border-crossing problem, the other day in the Parliament, you criticized the other party that they had an un-Canadian approach. So, what would be the Canadian approach?

Ahmed Hussen: What I was just saying was “Look, it’s okay we can have a debate on this issue.” My point and the same thing that Prime Minister Trudeau is always saying is “Don’t use fear and don’t use inaccurate information to scare people.” It’s one thing for me and you to debate facts.

But what we hear from the other side sometimes is exaggeration and trying to scare Canadians about refugees. And so their actions are not what Canada is all about. That’s what we say. We are not saying they are un-Canadian; we’re saying their actions are un-Canadian.

So what we’re saying is that immigration has been good for Canada. This is an issue we can have a debate about, but don’t make up things. I’ll give you an example. In December, Canada joined international community on the global compact for migration. Andrew Scheer came out and said that if we sign that agreement Canada will give up its sovereignty. And if you read the agreement
it says very clearly that this agreement does not take away the sovereignty of any country.

Thời Mới: And non-binding?

Ahmed Hussen: Yes, It’s non-binding. It says that very clearly. And yet, what’s amazing is that as late as October 20 the Conservative Party was saying yeah it’s fine, it’s a non-binding agreement, but in December he held a press conference saying this will take our rights, it’s gonna be binding it’s going to be a threat to our sovereignty. So, obviously he has the same access to that compact agreement that we do. He knows what’s true or not. So when you deliberately choose to ignore the truth and you hold a press conference and you scare Canadians, that’s not what a leader should be doing. A leader should not be building fear and encouraging division among Canadians. We’re supposed to bring people together. We’re supposed to have honest based on facts. So what we’re doing, what I’m doing is fighting fear with facts.

Thời Mới: This next question is closer to home for our Vietnamese community. Last year there was a rumour in the community that one former provincial party chief in Vietnam was granted permanent residence in Canada and he arrived here. That rumour might not be true but it reflects one of the biggest concerns for the Vietnamese-Canadian community here. They worry that some of the human rights violators or corrupt officials back in Vietnam can come here to have a safe haven. So what would Canada do in that case if they are found as such?

Ahmed Hussen: I’m not gonna respond to rumours. But I can assure you and I can assure the community through you that our government takes the issue of human rights abusers very seriously. We don’t want human rights abusers, people who commit crimes against humanity, people commit war crimes to come here. That’s unacceptable. So we have a security screening system to make sure people like that don’t get into Canada.

And if someone hides that fact and they come in and we find out after, there’re proceedings so that we can take the status away from them and remove them.

I can’t comment on this particular case because I don’t know about it.

Thời Mới: But if the community can expose those people?

Ahmed Hussen: I’m saying whether the community expose them or whether we find out through the police or whatever, the fact is I can assure you, point blank, that the government of Canada, first of all, if we know the person before they come in, if they apply to come in and we know their background and they have serious human rights abuses background or crimes against humanity or something like that, they will not get into Canada. Our immigration law does not allow that. The law in Canada is very strict on that.

Second, if they hide such information, and we don’t know about it and they’re in the country, and we find out – however we find out – we can take [away] their status, because if you obtain status in Canada through fraud it can be taken away from you and then they become inadmissible to Canada and they have to leave.

Thời Mới: Thank you very much.

Ahmed Hussen: No problem. Thank you.

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