Whitehorse Daily Star

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TALKING IMPORTANT ISSUES – The all-candidates’ debate on immigration and multiculturalism was held Saturday evening at the Yukon Transportation Museum Saturday. Standing, left-right are Joseph Zelezny, People’s Party of Canada; Larry Bagnell, Liberal; Jonas Smith, Conservative Party; Justin Lemphers, NDP; and Lenore Morris, Green Party. Forum host Gurdeep Pandher is at the far right.

Immigration forum attracts biggest crowd yet

All five of the Yukon’s federal election candidates attended a Saturday evening debate hosted by Whitehorse resident Gurdeep Pandher and focused on immigration, refugee systems and multiculturalism.

By Gabrielle Plonka on September 30, 2019

All five of the Yukon’s federal election candidates attended a Saturday evening debate hosted by Whitehorse resident Gurdeep Pandher and focused on immigration, refugee systems and multiculturalism.

Sixteen questions related to those three topics were submitted ahead of time and chosen by Pandher. The debate saw the highest attendance this election season, with more than 100 people in the audience. Each candidate was given one minute to respond, but they frequently spoke beyond the allotted time.

They were called to answer in random order, and their responses are listed here in that order.

The debate, which ran 2 1/2 hours, has been condensed and some questions excluded for brevity.

Candidates were asked if they support immigration and what efforts they would take as an MP to support immigration-related inquiries.

In a follow-up question, candidates were asked if they would appoint staff dedicated to immigration inquiries and how they would support the mental health of immigrants.

All five candidates said they are in support of immigration.

The Green Party’s Lenore Morris said Canada needs immigration to thrive because of the aging population.

She added the MP’s office should employ staff who are knowledgable about immigration issues and can provide referrals and resources for immigration lawyers.

NDP candidate Justin Lemphers said immigration is vital to help the country grow. He said Canada can and should be a safe haven for immigrants.

He advocated for a citizenship and immigration office in Whitehorse because applications are complex and time-sensitive. Lemphers said the territory is facing a deficit in mental health support for immigrants and Yukoners since the closure of Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services.

Conservative hopeful Jonas Smith said he believes in a fair and compassionate approach to immigration. He said immigration files take up a significant portion of the work of MPs, but that it’s premature to discuss staffing allocations before he is better informed of office resources.

Smith agreed with Lemphers that there is a deficit of mental health support in the territory. Smith added that Canada should prioritize immigrants with strong support structures in the Yukon.

Liberal incumbent Larry Bagnell said he is enthusiastically in support of immigration because it creates an influx of tax dollars, grows the economy and adds vibrancy to society.

Bagnell praised his current staff members who work hard to answer the concerns of immigrants in the territory. He said his office has had more than 1,500 interactions in the past year with immigrants from 69 countries.

People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Joseph Zelezny said he is in support of immigration as long as it’s sustainable. He said there needs to be infrastructure available to support a population influx and noted Whitehorse already faces a housing shortage.

If elected, he said, the PPC would repeal the Multiculturalism Act and would not dedicate staff to immigration issues because he thinks it would create redundancy.

Candidates were then asked if they think the Yukon Nominee Program (YNP) is fulfilling the needs of Yukoners and newcomers. In a follow-up question, candidates were asked how they would overcome the challenges the program faces and whether they believe an audit should be conducted to expose the exploitation of workers.

Lemphers said the YNP is fulfilling a service, but that doesn’t mean it’s fulfilling a need, and he wants to see a service that treats people equally.

He said improving the status of new workers starts with raising the minimum wage.

If there are reports of worker exploitation, Lemphers said, there should be an audit of the program. He put the onus on the federal government to hold the program to account.

Zelezny said Yukon needs more “economic migrants” and plans to raise the number of those from 25 to 50 per cent.

He said he would ensure that temporary foreign workers aren’t being funnelled into lower-income jobs and taken advantage of. He said he is in favour of an audit and increasing accountability as a method of lowering national debt.

Bagnell said the YNP fulfills its intended purpose.

Bagnell explained to attendees that a pilot program now allows nominees to work for up to three employers in five Yukon communities without being tied to a sole employer, addressing some of the issues YNP employees face. The program was announced late last week.

Bagnell then suggested the Auditor General could look into reports of employee exploitation, which he said is “totally illegal” if the allegations are true.

Smith said the YNP is one tool in a toolbox, and is doing its best to fulfill a need. He suggested there should be more communication between territorial and federal governments to improve the program.

He said “exploitation of any kind has no place in Canada,” but couldn’t say if an audit was the correct method for investigation.

Morris said the YNP “basically exists for the benefit of employers” and is successful for them.

The process, however, is challenging for small businesses. She said the YNP is successful in that it gives workers a path to citizenship. Morris said she would require more than “anecdotal evidence” before recommending an audit.

She said these programs have consistently created issues, ones the Yukon government should address.

The candidates were asked to respond to two incidents that have created waves this election period.

First, candidates were asked to respond to a third-party billboard depicting Maxime Bernier alongside the phrase “Say NO to Mass Immigration” which was removed from Canadian highways amid massive controversy in August.

Zelezny said the billboard was posted by a third party as a means of attacking the PPC and it is “not reflective of Canadian values at all.”

Zelezny added, however, that Canadian immigration numbers are too high, creating a burden on the housing market.

Lemphers said the billboard creates an “us and them dialogue” that fuels hate and prejudice in the country. He said Canadians should realize racism and hate exists in the country and “we need to take on ownership and deal with it head-on.”

Smith said he is not in favour of the billboard, which uses “hyperbolic rhetoric” that is not helpful to the question of immigration.

Bagnell said the billboard’s message is completely unacceptable and he works “passionately” to fight against hate.

Morris said she disagrees with the message that mass immigration exists in Canada. She said immigration is highly controlled and “one of the best systems in the world” that has helped create diversity in many Canadian cities.

Secondly, candidates were asked if they think Justin Trudeau committed an act of racism when he wore blackface, as depicting in photos released earlier this month, at a 2001 “Arabian Nights”-themed party, and on two other occasions more than twenty years ago.

Bagnell said the event was racist by Trudeau’s own admission, and that he accepted Trudeau’s apology when the photos were circulated.

Bagnell argued that Trudeau has historically fought to promote multiculturalism in his political career.

Zelezny said he doesn’t see value in Trudeau’s apology, which he found to be hypocritical. He condemned what he called an overwhelming culture of political correctness for the political storm caused by the photos.

Lemphers said the incident absolutely was racist, and he acknowledged Trudeau’s apology. The focus, however, needs to shift from Trudeau to the people who were hurt by the incident.

Lemphers suggested Canadians could better spend their time checking in with those affected by the incident than by focusing on Trudeau.

Smith said it was racist by Trudeau’s own admission and is another reason why Trudeau is not fit to be the leader of the country.

Morris said the incident was racist and “outrageous.” She said the time of the incident, in 2001, wasn’t that long ago, and she has never thought blackface to be acceptable.

She said white people are able to walk through the world without considering other people and privilege leads to unacceptable incidences like this one.

In the last section, candidates were asked how they would protect vulnerable minorities including people of colour and LGBTQ+ communities.

They were also asked how they include minority groups in their offices and campaigns.

Smith said there is no room for hate in Canada. He said he has worked toward building an inclusive campaign team and he is supportive of the LGBTQ+ community with which he has experience through his many years working in the bar scene.

Bagnell said his party has historically worked to protect minority groups but there is still “a lot of work to do.” He explained that his staffers come from a variety of genders and backgrounds.

He said his party has made great strides to improve the situations of LGBTQ+ people in the last four years.

Zelezny said one person cannot determine what is offensive or hateful, and believes in free speech. He said he believes the PPC to be the most inclusive party, and there are no examples of candidates who are hateful or racist, despite the backlash the party has faced in this election. He said he is inclusive to LGBTQ+ communities.

Morris said it’s increasingly important that Canadians call out racism and bigotry and she believes the long-term answer to fighting hate is through education.

She said she hopes to be a representative for all Yukoners, and has worked with members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout her career and hopes to continue to work in support of them.

Lemphers said the NDP has the most diverse slate of candidates with hopes of bringing more power to minority communities.

He added he has love for the Yukon’s LGBTQ+ community but reiterated avoiding an “us and them” rhetoric that separates LGBTQ+ people from the rest.

He said he doesn’t want to “tokenize” his team, and invited attendees to get to know his staff and their diverse qualities for themselves.

Comments (26)

Up 0 Down 0

Sam Schmidt on Oct 7, 2019 at 3:03 pm

It was a great debate. Well done by the candidates and the moderator. The bhangra dance part was excellent too. As an immigrant from Germany, I understand the need for these kinds of open discussions.

Up 1 Down 3

Scott on Oct 6, 2019 at 12:00 pm

"Biggest crowd yet" also proves the Yukon's love for Gurdeep and many amazing things he is doing here to bring people together. "We are all Yukoners and friends first".

Up 3 Down 4

David on Oct 6, 2019 at 10:55 am

@ Wilf Carter - are you referring to Jonas's experience in the Klondike Placer Mining Association? Someone with that experience is the last thing the Yukon needs right now. I'm all for mining as long as it's done responsibly and sustainable but don't fool yourself into thinking that it does anything for Yukon's "economy". The Yukon has no sustainable economy and probably never will, we totally depend on the federal transfers every year. People who think that the Yukon's "economy" needs mining are delusional, it's just a drop in the bucket and I doubt we'd even notice if hypothetically all mining was shut down.

Up 11 Down 3

Larry’s Nemesis on Oct 5, 2019 at 5:27 am

Every year 10 times the population of the Yukon or 3 times the entire population of northern Canada is admitted into Canada as immigrants. With an election held every four years that means Yukon and northerners votes are diluted and devalued accordingly each election cycle. Over time your votes gradually mean less and less, Ontario alone decides who the rest of Canada gets for a government and it’s a broken system.

Up 8 Down 5

Wilf Carter on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:36 pm

Jonas is the only one with the right back ground to work for Yukoners.

Up 24 Down 0

Heather Campbell on Oct 3, 2019 at 11:03 am

As one of two Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants living and operating businesses here in the Yukon (sorry Lenore, we do exist) I attended the debate last Saturday night. I feel each candidate had at least one shining moment, but often struggled how to best respond to questions that were in my opinion not entirely "non-partisan". The moderator did not allow gallery questions, referred to slides that were stale dated and often irrelevant, placed too much focus on the Yukon Government role, and ran overtime.
Sadly, all media reporting on the evening seem to further showcase the lack of understanding of the real issues facing immigration here in the Yukon. I hope anyone undecided can take opportunity to get more in depth info from candidates prior to casting their vote, and whomever takes the MP's seat later this month and the media coverage that follows all act on accurate, timely, and pertinent information from staff, stakeholders, and partners.

Up 42 Down 4

baggage train on Oct 3, 2019 at 9:12 am

What we need to realize is that there are male immigrants coming from countries with a very negative attitude toward women, and they bring their baggage with them. Conversation with a man purporting to be a scholar and giving me a lecture on his beliefs, ending with: "Canadians just like to go dancing and eating in restaurants." This after repeated statements about burning in hell. Really, and tell me what do the Taliban like to do for fun? This is after a $200,000 contribution from the Canadian tax payer to his institution.

Up 21 Down 5

My Opinion on Oct 3, 2019 at 1:07 am

Remember just Shut Up and pay your taxes. It will solve everything.

Up 30 Down 7

My Opinion on Oct 3, 2019 at 1:06 am

Liberal Media pushing a Left wing agenda. No Bias here.

Up 7 Down 19

Janet Smith on Oct 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm

@ I – It was a balanced debate. I was there as well. Gurdeep wasn't biased. He did a great job and conducted it well. All those were important questions and needed to be asked. It is easy to jump to conclusions if you do not have an impartial mind. There were many supporters of different parties and you seem one of them.

Up 12 Down 40

Sandy on Oct 2, 2019 at 11:37 am

I was there and I think Gurdeep Pandher did a great job. He made people engaged by creating this great space, which is so important for our democracy. When we are so busy and cannot meet all candidates one-by-one, this forum was great place to hear all of them. All candidates danced Bhangra “together” with Gurdeep, which was so wonderful to watch, and which also showed our “unity-in-diversity”. We do not find this anywhere in Canada. I know some folks just get jealous when things are done by a person of colour. We admire Gurdeep Pandher and support his efforts. Kudos to all candidates too for participating!

Up 38 Down 12

Steve on Oct 2, 2019 at 12:20 am

First I find it hilarious how the people leaning right call anyone who is left leaning socialists or communists. You may want to educate yourself before throwing around those terms. If you want to be a capitalist then don’t use the hospitals or any social programs and cpp or move to the US and see how you do. Canada is far from a socialist country and those of us in the middle or leaning slightly left are far from being socialist.

Concerning immigration, I’d like them to stop allowing families from bringing other family members over, unless you can read, write and speak one of our official languages or a FN language. Anyone coming to Canada should not have their child deemed a Canadian. On temporary workers program, if it is abused the CEO and executives should go to jail for a year. No more abuse by the Chinese owned mining companies. We should only be accepting people for professions we are short people on.

This does not make me a con, or right leaning. It just makes sense. I dislike these politicians not thinking logically and giving them the questions before hand is stupid. I want to know what they really think not scripted.

Up 47 Down 8

drum on Oct 1, 2019 at 6:25 pm

I agree with Juniper Jackson - we need hard working, employable immigrants not new welfare recipients who drain hardworking taxpayers dollars and leave less for Canadian Seniors, Veterans and First Nations.
We do not need anymore trouble makers who do not want to accept Canadian laws and ways. Never accept Sharia Law in a democratic country like Canada. They can all stay in their home countries and enjoy Sharia Law, stoning women, covering women in black, marriage at 9, killing gays and murdering Jewish people.

Up 18 Down 9

Nicky on Oct 1, 2019 at 4:09 pm

@Yukoner53, it's a far more likely situation that many LIB are disappointed/disgusted with the T2 regime, but can't bring themselves to vote CPC, so voting GRN or NDP is a face-saving opportunity to still score environmental virtue-signaling points with their peers. Besides pot is legal now so their main reason for voting LIB in 21015 is gone.

Up 41 Down 10

I attended on Oct 1, 2019 at 3:09 pm

I went to the debate, and it was an NDP love in! It was not a debate really, and in my opinion was not democratic. Gurdeep was biased. The moderator should not be biased. I was really not impressed. The Green Party, NDP, and Liberals played on people's emotions, especially Lemphers.
I really wanted to hear some solid answers on how to better manage immigration, there is always room for improvement. But I didn't. The PPC candidate (Joseph) seemed to be the only one to talk about some facts, some solutions, a bit of a game plan, but the rest relied mostly on calling our racism and hate...which was off topic..anyway..we need better leaders.. Larry, Lenore and Justin were not impressive nor did they exhibit true leadership... Larry was ok but jumped on the racism hate bad wagon pretty quick..so did Jonas..Jonas said very little really unless it was bout how great he was..very little substance..Joseph was the one willing to actually talk about policy...change..really..without preying on people's fear and emotions.

Up 9 Down 25

Katie on Oct 1, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Interesting! Good to see the leaders/ prospective leaders in support of immigration. Immigration is, and has always been a vitality everywhere in the world. Diversity is life, and it is everywhere in everything. When issues erupt for a seemingly political interest, their weight get sucked in the political inauthenticity that has been core to politics. Immigration has been, always, from times immemorial. We all belong together regardless of our differences.
Personally I think dehumanization of humanity is perpetuated by the maintenance of segregation of humans at any level. I believe peace will reign within and amidst individuals if, and only if, people view selves as separate from their differences because it doesn't matter; geographical origins, skin colour or sexual orientation, recent or immemorial, born in or outside, immigrants are a necessity and there's goodness in everyone.
Divisions never build a solid home. As humans, we all suffer at different times. It takes everyone to be supportive of each life, and everyone to contribute positively to the co-existence of all. We are all responsible for selves and each other. Segregating humanity into pointless categories of colour, gender, origin and length of stay only sustains divisiveness.

Up 46 Down 15

Josey Wales on Oct 1, 2019 at 11:37 am

Hmmm.....”Sixteen questions related to those three topics were submitted ahead of time and chosen by Pandher”.

Kinda like gathering questions from German citizens 85 years ago...selected by a crazy Austrian for discussion on what kind of solution is required for Germany to move forward....
Or CBC going to that cafe at the end of main street asking “random” questions about environmental or gender bender politics...

Good intent to host, yes true.
the questions should be like our many engineered imports, completely un vetted and random...never know what might be asked.
Anything else is purely agenda driven and to me...completely meaningless.
Cannot we just dance our way to euphoric bliss celebrating this mega diversity globalist blueprint?
Too bad we don’t have a spore of diversity of thought in this circus...

A communist is just a socialist that really REALLY means it...

Up 27 Down 13

Yukoner53 on Sep 30, 2019 at 10:46 pm

The Greens seem to be taking a lot more support this time and we know none of that is coming from the Conservatives. I have a feeling that we will have a repeat of when Ryan Leef got elected. Jonas will be able to sneak in after the Greens bite heavily enough into Larry's support.

Up 26 Down 5

Lester Guy Bernard Travis Quigley - The 1st on Sep 30, 2019 at 8:38 pm

The irony - Discussing diversity and referring to LGBTQ+ as a group of individuals with a set of common goals and values.
The juxtaposition of these groups is ludicrous on its face and impossible at its most base. The internecine contradictions ad Infinitum - Untenable.

No one wants to be human. This is dangerous and stupid. We need someone to re-humanize us all...

Up 30 Down 33

Wilf on Sep 30, 2019 at 8:18 pm

All of the candidates seem well informed and very intelligent, except Jonas Smith.

Up 18 Down 15

Lucy H. Omosapien, The 1st on Sep 30, 2019 at 7:01 pm

We need a reset button. Everyone should should return to where they came from. Hail the Ethiopian consulate... Company is coming... Perhaps once we’re all together again we can come up with a more concrete plan for sharing this earth?

Up 43 Down 12

jc on Sep 30, 2019 at 5:36 pm

which means liberal votes. Canada doesn't get much if any traditional immigrants from Europe anymore who are more Conservative minded. This will keep the Liberals in power for many years to come. I just wish Bagnell would tell the truth once in a while.

Up 36 Down 10

jc on Sep 30, 2019 at 5:34 pm

Bagnall says he is enthusiastically in support of immigration. The truth is though, because of the areas that immigration comes from now, is enthusiastically liberal and socialist in their idiology.

Up 46 Down 20

Matthew on Sep 30, 2019 at 4:54 pm

What a load of shite...

Maybe if it wasn't so much money to start and raise a family in Canada there would be more workers.. meanwhile 50% of us are living pay to pay...
Were bringing in workers plus their large families to work low paying retail and fast food jobs which will be non existent in the near future..

They ALL say "no room for hate in Canada" yet there are over 100 verses in the Quran that tell its followers to kill non-believers, yet we just accept that as not true.. they also follow a man who had a 9 year old wife... think about that..

Up 42 Down 19

Juniper Jackson on Sep 30, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Immigration! I love immigration! It's the best thing ever to grow a country. Immigrants..want to come here, they must have a trade, they have to have some money to start off on, and can sign up for health care right away, but not welfare..immigrants tend to be hard working, contributors who want to, and do integrate.. most already speak English or French. They are prepared to live in Canada.

NOT to be confused with illegals, living in hotels in the south, NOT to be confused with refugee's, so many of which are not employable because they do not integrate into western life and speak nothing but Arabic. NOT to be confused with the nominee program, or TFW. Most of whom will live 15 to an apt. and send their meager earnings home. Then, they get status in a year, Whitehorse has over 3000 Filipino's here, with 43% of the schools. That's fine.. but don't confuse that with Immigration either.

There are NO pluses for the country to bring in uneducated, unemployable, people, unwilling or unable to integrate.. that the working Canadian must support.. forever. (The socialists reading this are going to froth at the mouth..:)

Up 51 Down 18

Wilf Carter on Sep 30, 2019 at 3:13 pm

If Canada is going to take in immigrants then we have to cut back aide to other counties. We don't have the money for both!

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