OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was under mounting pressure to denounce Maxime Bernier's public statements and kick him out of caucus Wednesday after the maverick MP used his Twitter feed to renew a sustained attack on "extreme Liberal multiculturalism."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh used the social media platform to say he's been waiting for Scheer to "do the responsible thing" and denounce what he calls Bernier's "divisive" words.
"To everyone that belongs to a diverse community — who's been told you don't belong — I've been in your shoes, I get it," Singh wrote, saying he's "deeply disappointed" in Scheer.
"His refusal to denounce these divisive comments sends a dangerous message. Children of diverse backgrounds across Canada pick up on these messages. Right now, they need to hear that their country wants more of themselves, not less."
In a series of tweets posted Sunday, Bernier said promoting too much diversity could have the effect of dividing Canada into "little tribes" that cause division and erode Canada’s identity. On Tuesday, he seized on a decision to name a park in Winnipeg after the founder of Pakistan, comparing it to the decision to remove a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from outside Victoria city hall.
"While a statue of our country’s founder is being removed in one city, a park was recently named after Pakistan’s founder in another, in the presence of M-103 Liberal MP sponsor," he wrote — a reference to controversial Liberal MP Iqra Khalid.
Khalid was the sponsor of M-103, a motion in the House of Commons aimed at denouncing "Islamophobia" that quickly became a lightning rod for Opposition MPs who saw the motion as a possible attack on freedom of speech.
Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of heritage, also called for Bernier's ouster Wednesday — and called out Scheer for failing to condemn his caucus member's behaviour.
"I urge you to remove Mr. Bernier from your caucus immediately, otherwise Canadians will be forced to conclude that you accept his backward views," Virani wrote.
"Newcomers have not threatened what it means to be Canadian. To the contrary, successive generations of immigrants have enriched what it means to be Canadian."
In a statement released late Wednesday, Scheer tried to distance himself from the controversial comments, although he stopped short of taking any action.
"Personally, I disagree with politicians on the left and the right when they use identity politics to divide Canadians. I will not engage in this type of politics," Scheer said in the statement.
Bernier "holds no official role in caucus" and does not speak for the party "on any issue," he added.
"Conservatives celebrate Canada's diversity and a Conservative government will continue to welcome those from all over the world who choose to come here because of the society we have built."
It's far from the first time that Bernier has courted controversy.
One Conservative MP, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, told The Canadian Press last month that he urged Scheer to kick him out after the Beauce MP posted a controversial chapter of his forthcoming book on his website, despite having promised not to promote it "for the sake of maintaining harmony in our party."
Instead, Bernier — who narrowly lost to Scheer by a razor-thin margin in last year's Conservative leadership race — was stripped of his role in the party's shadow cabinet.
The MP is no stranger to speaking his mind. In a recent interview, he declared himself the only politician who genuinely supports having free trade with the United States, and slammed his own party for supporting Canada's "socialist" supply management system.
Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press