Andrew Scheer was out promoting his plan to tackle gang-related violence Friday, but found himself on the defensive about his dual citizenship and other tight spots instead of the signature Conservative tough-on-crime agenda.
The Conservative leader was in Toronto to talk about his crime platform, which would see the Canada Border Services Agency do more to stop guns from being smuggled in from the United States. It also promises new mandatory minimum sentences for some gang-related offences.
Yet, Scheer was still having to spend a lot of time talking about how he is in the process of renouncing the dual American-Canadian citizenship he has through his U.S.-born father, and why he had never said anything publicly about it until now.
Scheer, who said he has never renewed his U.S. passport as an adult, said he did not begin the process of giving up his American citizenship until August, despite having decided to do so after winning the Conservative leadership race in 2017.
“It’s not a big deal in Canada for people to have dual citizenship,” Scheer said Friday morning.
The Conservatives, however, had attacked former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, as well as former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, over their dual citizenship with France. Mulcair obtained his citizenship through his wife, who was born in France, and Dion through his mother, also born there.
When asked whether he had brought up his own situation then, Scheer said: “I wasn’t leading the party at that time.”
Scheer also faced questions about whether he had ever earned any U.S. income (no), whether he had registered for the draft with the U.S. Selective Service, as required by law (he did not know, but the party has since confirmed he did) and when his U.S. passport expired (he would have to check).
The Liberals made a thinly veiled reference to the issue when they sent out a scornful news release about the Conservatives’ approach to law and order.
“Andrew Scheer wants to bring American-style gun laws to Canada,” said the statement from Liberal candidate Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief.
The Liberals took their own hits Friday on an issue that leader Justin Trudeau has made, for better or for worse, central to his legacy as prime minister.
Ottawa is asking the Federal Court to review a September ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which found the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children living on reserves by not adequately funding child and family services.
It also ordered children and their families be given the highest level of compensation it can award.
Trudeau said he agrees with many of the tribunal’s findings, including that victims should be compensated, but that more time is needed for consultation, especially with the election campaign.
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh condemned the decision to challenge the ruling.
“This is a moral failure, this is unjust, this is continuing an injustice,” he said in Saskatoon.
Singh said an NDP government would accept the ruling and provide compensation. Scheer has said a Conservative government would ask for a judicial review.
Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press