Conservative leadership contender Kellie Leitch says comparing her pitch to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” with U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for “extreme vetting” is unfair and misguided.
“This isn’t the same thing … this is about having a conversation about our Canadian values, about what we’re about, about a positive, constructive conversation about the reality of the values that built our nation,” she told CBC’s The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti.
In August, Trump vowed to block immigrants who sympathize with extremist groups or don’t embrace American values. He said the policy would first require a temporary halt in immigration from dangerous regions of the world.
“This is a fundamentally a different conversation than what people are trying to depict it as,” said Leitch. “I understand the compulsion to go there, but that’s not what this is about.”
In a headline-grabbing survey sent out last week, the Leitch campaign asked supporters what they think about vetting would-be immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.”
Leitch said personally she’d like to see people screened for values including equality of opportunity, hard work, generosity, freedom and tolerance, but wouldn’t explain how immigration officials would actually vet new Canadians.
“Right now we ask individuals what their income is,” Leitch said. “So why would we not ask some simple questions with regards to whether you believe in a equality of rights …? So I believe there’s an opportunity to do this.”
The Tory hopeful, who says her own family immigrated to Canada in the 1800s, told Tremonti the survey is an entry point for a larger conversation about what values Canadians respect.
“Individuals may come forward with different ideas, and that’s what the glory of this country is: Canada is a country where you can have a disagreement about priorities,” she said.
“I’m not going to trivialize the conversation by saying I want to specifically talk about support for same-sex marriage … but what I will say is people who believe women are property, that they can be beaten, bought and sold, or believe that gays and lesbians should be stoned to death because of who they love don’t share our Canadian values.”
When asked about who in Canada is stoning people in the LGBT community, Leitch pointed to “international news in other countries.”
Other candidates disagree
Fellow leadership candidates and the Conservatives’ interim leader, Rona Ambrose have all distanced themselves from Leitch’s comments.
“This suggestion that some immigrants are ‘anti-Canadian’ does not represent our Conservative Party or our Canada,” said Michael Chong.
“What I am really concerned about is the tone and the message this question puts forward,” said fellow candidate Deepak Obhrai.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, Leitch helped promote a controversial Conservative promise to establish a tip line for so-called “barbaric cultural practices” aimed at helping the RCMP enforce a law aimed at cracking down on things like forced marriages.
Not long after she began her Conservative leadership bid, Leitch expressed regret for that position, even becoming visibly emotional during an interview in April on CBC News Network’s panel show Power & Politics.
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