Kellie Leitch steps back from visitor screening pledge
OTTAWA -- Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch may be stepping back from her promise to screen all visitors to Canada for Canadian values, though she's holding firm on immigrant and refugee interviews.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Leitch said she wants to "do the process properly."
"That means doing face-to-face interviews, based on the Senate standing committee report published in 2015, that recommends that we do face-to-face interviews," Leitch said.
Asked if that included visitors as well as immigrants and refugees, something she has said repeatedly, she suggested visitors would be excluded.
"We meet individual visitors, tourists, at the border already. And there are some we do more extensive background checks on," she said.
Anyone entering Canada at an official border crossing has to go through a border official. Those who cross illegally, if caught, are arrested and turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency for screening.
Leitch mentioned interviewing all visitors as recently as Wednesday, in a fundraising email sent following human rights activist Malala Yousafzai's visit to Canada. Leitch called Yousafzai "the embodiment of Canadian values."
"I am the only candidate who will ensure that every single person who seeks to come to Canada, as an immigrant, refugee, or visitor, receives a face-to-face interview with a trained immigration officer, and is screened to ensure they agree with our shared values," she wrote in the email.
As the leadership voting approaches, Leitch also told CTV's Question Period that she's avoided speaking negatively about the other candidates.
"When you're not doing well as another candidate, you attack people. I haven't been attacking my colleagues, I've been out talking about who we are as Canadians because I'm a proud Canadian," she said.
However, after it was noted that she has called her competitors "elites" and said they're out of touch, Leitch said she's acting no differently from the others.
"My colleagues are doing the same. When you're a front-runner that's what happens. But that's ok," she said.
In a fundraising email Thursday, Leitch took aim at two of her competitors over their stances on drugs.
"Of the three leading candidates in this race, I am the only one who is opposed to the legalization of marijuana," she wrote.
"Maxime Bernier is campaigning arm-in-arm with a convicted drug trafficker, Marc Emery. Kevin O'Leary supports giving drug addicts free heroin with taxpayer money."
Marijuana activist Marc Emery says he backs Bernier for the Conservative leadership due to Bernier's libertarian beliefs.
O'Leary has said he backs a prescription heroin program in Vancouver for addicts who haven't been able to get clean through methadone or abstinence, according to a report in the Georgia Straight, a local publication.
Leitch says the party's position on pot is clear.
"We would decriminalize it, but we don't want it legal," she said, criticizing the government for "basically saying it's ok for kids to do drugs."
"We would decriminalize, but we would make it illegal still."