Leitch 'disappointed' by Ambrose's criticism of 'values' screening
Published Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:35AM EDT
Conservative Party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch says she is “disappointed” by disapproving comments from Interim Leader Rona Ambrose over her controversial proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.”
The proposal has drawn accusations of “dog-whistle politics” from Tory leadership hopeful Michael Chong and prompted comparisons to Donald Trump. Last week, Ambrose told CTV’s Question Period that she “personally” doesn’t support screening and doesn’t know “what that would look like” in application.
In an interview on Question Period Sunday, Leitch said she’s reached out to Ambrose over the public criticism.
“I’m disappointed that an interim leader would engage themselves in the leadership race,” Leitch said.
Leitch did not confirm whether she planned to file a formal complaint to the party and said her campaign is “having a discussion” with Ambrose’s office as well as with the party.
“We’ll see where that discussion takes us. And as I mentioned before, Canada is a place where we have disagreements and we come to thoughtful resolution of them, and I’m confident that we will in this case as well,” she said.
Leitch was asked to clarify particular aspects of the contentious proposal, which became a talking point last week after she asked constituents in an email survey if they’d support screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian” values.
The survey did not identify the purported values. Leitch has since named four “Canadian values” that she believes “the majority of Canadians” support: hard work, generosity, freedom, and tolerance.
“I don’t think it’s such a stretch to then ask if people believe in the equality of women and if women have equal rights. If you have a different sexual orientation, are you respected here?” she said.
Asked what would happen to someone who doesn’t support gay marriage or believes women should cover their hair for religious reasons, Leitch said she did not want to “trivialize” her idea by talking specifics.
“I’m not going to go point by point, issue by issue, and trivialize this issue. I think we as Canadians share a certain set of values, and I’m looking forward to having a discussion with Canadians about that,” she said.
In a recent interview, Chong accused Leitch of dog-whistle politics, which is described as a type of political speech using code words that appear to mean one thing to the general population but have a different meaning for a targeted audience.
Leitch called the accusation “fundamentally false.”
“For myself, I don’t think it’s intolerant to have a discussion about Canadian values that we hold dear. And I look forward to having the discussion with the other leadership candidates as well as with my colleagues who are in the party, and Canadians,” she said.
Idea is ‘unworkable’
Leitch’s idea has been criticized by other former and current politicians including former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and fellow Conservative leadership candidates Maxime Bernier and Tony Clement.
Speaking with Question Period, Clement called Leitch’s proposal “unworkable” and “undesirable.”
“We don’t want to have government bureaucrats in Ottawa or elsewhere trying to decide what makes a future Canadian a good Canadian or a bad Canadian,” he said.
Clement has said that, if elected, he would support increased screening at borders to weed out individuals with connections to terrorism. Clement said the difference between his proposal and Leitch’s idea is “a matter of substance.”
“What I want to screen for, and our national security agencies want to screen for, is past activity of terrorism behaviour, past radicalization and consorting with terrorist organizations. So that’s the real issue,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Leitch attempted to distance her “anti-Canadian values” screening idea from the controversial barbaric cultural practices tipline she helped front under the former Conservative government.
“I recognize that it may be easy to paint the discussion about Canadian values in that light, but my intention that day when we made that announcement was to stand up for victimized women and girls,” she said.