Ying Chin Huang of Taiwan beams after receiving his citizenship documents Thursday. (Wolf Depner/News Staff).

Federal minister tells Saanich audience to reject anti-immigration voices

Ahmed Hussen said Canada is ‘not building walls, but actually building bridges to others’

Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship told members of a Saanich audience last week that Canada will remain “open to the other” and continue to provide “safe haven and protection for the most vulnerable” while urging them to reject anti-immigration forces.

“When you hear of posting on social media, or others, who are spreading hateful messages against immigration, against refugees, don’t believe in that,” said Ahmed Hussen, a federal Liberal, who represents a Toronto-area riding.

Hussen himself arrived as a refugee in Canada from Somalia as a 16-year-old in 1993.

He made points during a citizenship ceremony held Thursday at the Greek Community Centre on Elk Drive during which 50 individuals from 22 countries received their citizenship documents. They come against the backdrop of rising anti-immigration sentiments around the globe, including Canada, where established and emerging political parties such the federal Tories and the new People’s Party of Canada have raised questions about existing immigration policies, including birthright citizenship and immigration levels.

Hussen did not directly address these issues in his remarks, but acknowledged them by framing Canada as an antipode to an “world that in increasingly closing” its doors.

RELATED: Immigration Minister defends Canada signing onto UN migration pact

“I can tell you that Canada has a brighter future because you have chosen to become Canadians, because you have chosen to join us in our struggle and in our ambition to create an even more prosperous country, an even more welcoming country, an inclusive country, a country that finally gets reconciliation right, a country that finally works and is committed to including women fully in the economy and in all aspects of our society, a country that becomes an example to the world, not in building walls, but actually building bridges to others,” he said.

Hussen said during his remarks that Canada’s economic future depends on immigration. “We are a nation of 37 million people, and for us to continue to prosper and to have a good standard of living, we need to trade with others, we need to engage other people from all corners of the world, and what better way to do that then through your assistance and your assistance of all the Canadians, who have come here from all corners of the world, and who are now proud to contribute to this country … to make it more inclusive and more just than when they have found it.”

RELATED: Canada to increase annual immigration admissions to 350,000 by 2021

Hussen told audience members that their respective journeys now add to Canada’s story, which he described as a story of immigration.

“Apart from our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the story of modern day Canada is really a story of immigration, about different waves of immigrants, who have chosen to come to Canada, either in search of protection from prosecution, or in search of a better life or better opportunities. You are yet another example of that, and each one of you carries those stories and those perspectives based on the journeys that you got you here.”

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While Austin and her nine-month-year-old daughter Sophie were already Canadian citizens before Thursday’s citizenship ceremony, they could not miss seeing husband and father Simon Austin of the United Kingdom become a Canadian citizen. (Wolf Depner/News Staff).

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