Ford refuses to apologize for comments about immigrants, migrant workers

Ontario’s premier is under fire for refusing to apologize for calling the work ethic of new immigrants' into question. Adrian Ghobrial goes to the heart of Ford Nation, where new Canadians share their experiences in light of Doug Ford’s comments.

By Lucas Casaletto


Ontario Premier Doug Ford is declining to apologize for his comments about immigrants, with the health minister backing the provincial leader, saying Ford was misunderstood.

Speaking about a worker shortage in the trades on Monday, Ford said, “We need people, we’re in such desperate need for people from around the world,” adding that the province is short “a couple 100,000 workers” and needs immigrants to fill the gap.

“I just have one criteria – you come here like every other new Canadian has come here, you work your tail off,” he said in Tecumseh, Ontario. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around – not going to happen. Go somewhere else. You want to work, come here.”

Ford added that he will be speaking to the Prime Minister about the labour shortage and said he will “aggressively” work with the federal government to “get more people to call Ontario home.”

It has sparked an enormous outcry, with opposition leaders calling the comments demeaning.

Christine Elliott was asked about Ford’s comments at a press conference in Toronto.

“What Premier Ford was saying is that we need more people to do the jobs that we have available here in Ontario, and so we encourage more immigration,” she said. “We know that when people come here, they do work hard.”

Elliott went on to say that an apology from Ford is not necessary.

The premier addressed the comments on Tuesday during question period at Queen’s Park.

“I am pro-immigration. I have been pro-immigration from day one,” Ford said. “We are short 290,000 people. I was the only government [to send] letter after letter to the Prime Minister saying we need more people.”

The premier said he heard from several new Canadians who proudly recognized Ford as their leader.

“Last night and this morning, my phone was blowing up on messages. Guess who the messages were from? They were from new Canadian immigrants that came here. First-generation, and they told me story after story… How their parents came over [to Ontario]. The father worked in a gold mine to put him through school, through university.”

New Democrat Doly Begum, Critic, Citizenship, Foreign Credentials and Immigration Services, says the comments are offensive to families like hers, who came to Ontario for a better future and called for an apology.

“The premier told new Canadians to ‘work their tails off,’ yet thousands of highly qualified immigrants – and he talked about how we need thousands of workers right now – so thousands of highly qualified immigrants, many of whom are doctors, lawyers, nurses, professors and with years of experience, are unable to find work in their field because of the barriers to foreign credential recognition,” Begum said.

“I have heard from thousands of many of these experienced doctors, for example, who in an attempt to use their skills and support the province volunteered on the front lines during this pandemic, and after trying to make ends meet with minimum wage jobs, have given up to find finding work in Ontario and actually left this province.”

She says if Ford is serious about helping and supporting immigrants, he should commit to understanding the challenges thousands face when relocating to the country.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also strongly challenged Ford, saying he should have retracted his comments.

“They deserved an apology, and instead, they got an invitation to Ford Fest,” she said. “His opinions of immigrants and newcomers are racist. Frankly, they are stereotypes that are not true.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca also called the premier to apologize, saying the comments were “callous.”

“This kind of divisive language is deeply disappointing,” he said. “A premier is supposed to unite Ontarians, not wedge us further apart.”


Canadians United Against Hate: Ford comment promotes racist stereotypes

The founder of Canadians United Against Hate condemned Ford’s initial comments and said anyone in public office should know better than to echo anti-immigrant stereotypes.

Fareed Khan says premier Ford’s comment is “unacceptable and dangerous,” adding that he needs to issue an apology immediately.

“This stereotype about immigrants wanting to come to Canada so that they can sit around and collect social assistance has been around for decades.  It is not only offensive, but it feeds into racist tropes about immigrants and gives ammunition to those who trade in the ideology of hate and racism,” said Khan.

Khan accused Ford of doubling down and going on a partisan rant against the NDP and the Liberals.

“Doug Ford’s credibility on issues of racism is practically non-existent. He allowed candidates who promoted hateful and racist ideas to run for the Conservatives in the last provincial election. He cut funding to Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate and failed to hold a mandatory conference that was part of the provincial strategic plan to combat racism,” Khan said.

“This demonstrates his lack of commitment to fight racism, and comments like this demonstrate his own inherent racism regardless of his denials.”

The CUAH founder says Ford has demonstrated through words and actions that he is “unwilling to stand against the anti-immigrant and racist voices that support him,” pointing to his past affiliations with Faith Goldy.

With files from Dilshad Burman of CityNews and The Canadian Press

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