During a tense moment at a Saskatchewan town hall Thursday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hushed boos and emphasized the government’s immigration policy.

A man at the University of Regina event, the second town hall of the week, claimed his family has been in the area for generations and spoke of “tyranny coming down on us” on the world stage. He added that Christianity and Islam “don’t mix,” a comment that garnered boos from the crowd as the man asked about what he described as an “open border.”

“What are we doing about that thing in particular? An open border,” the man said.

“It’s not an open-border policy. We’re not an open country,” Trudeau responded, stressing that the “rule of law” is applied by officials to all immigrants whether they arrive regularly by airport or cross the border from the U.S. illegally.

The exchange began with the man describing “tyranny” in Europe. “We’ve got an open border allowing this stuff to come in freely,” he said. “You’re talking about my freedom and everybody’s lives who gave here. Everybody who put their life down on the line and you’re saying ‘Eh, it’s OK, it won’t happen to us.’ It’s happening in France and it’s happening all over.”

“Sorry, sir, what’s happening?” Trudeau asked.

“The people are saying no,” the man said. “These two cultures will not mix.”

“Which two cultures are those, sir?” Trudeau asked.

“Islam and Christianity,” the man answered.

When members of the audience booed the remark, Trudeau called for respect and described a Canada that was “built by immigration” and continues to benefit from it.

“We have a population that is aging. We need people to arrive with their talents, with their hopes, with their dreams, with their capacities to work hard, to build our communities, to build our future,” he said. “Immigration is an economic benefit to Canadians. It makes our communities more resilient. It makes our country stronger and it will continue to.”

Statistics Canada hate crime research released in November reported a sharp increase in reported hate crimes, with incidents involving Muslims more than doubling between 2016 and 2017. Jews were the most targeted group, representing 18 per cent of all reported hate crimes nationally, according to the data.

Research generally supports Trudeau’s town hall statement as some reports have found that immigration leads to economic growth and less crime. StatCan data for Toronto in 2006 found that “high-immigration neighbourhoods generally have lower crime rates.” A 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada said that a no-immigration policy would result in “weak economic growth and fiscal strain.”