Immigration Minister John McCallum slammed Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s proposal to screen immigrants for Anti-Canadian values, calling it “dog-whistle” and “Orwellian.”

Speaking for the first time since Leitch’s proposal, McCallum told Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period, that Canadians aren’t interested in having a debate of this nature. “I think it’s very sad that these Conservative candidates are offering things that for a long time, Canadians have rejected,” said McCallum.

McCallum praised Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, who on took a strong stance against Leitch’s proposal on last week’s Question Period.

“I respect Rona Ambrose because she did the unusual thing as interim leader to dump on this policy,” McCallum said. “She understands it’s bad for her party, but it’s bad for Canada, for us to be going down this destructive route. I think Canadians are better than that.”

While McCallum said he isn’t interested in a test for anti-Canadian values, he did note that the government is always looking to strengthen security checks at the board. “We’re not specifically looking at (security checks) right now but we’re always looking generally to improve our security checks,” said McCallum. “If we could do it better, and make Canadians safer, we’d certainly look at that.”

Temporary Foreign Workers

McCallum said the government is considering a pathway to citizenship for temporary foreign workers. “We think that those who come in general, should have a pathway to permanent residence more so than is the case today,” said McCallum. “What we want is permanent immigrants who come here and raise their families, so if they’re on a pathway to permanent residency, they’re only temporary for awhile, then they become full Canadians.”

McCallum agreed with some critics who believe that the temporary foreign worker program drives down wages. “It could (suppress wages) in certain circumstance, I don’t suggest that never happens,” said McCallum. He said that the program can be effective “in areas that Canadians don’t want to work or areas where (businesses) truly cannot find Canadians (to fill jobs).”

Syrian Refugees

With the government hoping to bring in 6,000 more Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year, McCallum said the Liberals would not look to increase funding for Syrian refugees that have already arrived in Canada. Currently, the government gives Syrian refugees monthly financial support for up to 12 months after they arrive, to help cover the cost of basics, such as food and shelter. Some provinces and municipalities are worried that the cost of helping Syrian refugees will fall to them after the federal funding stops.

“We’ve done it 12 months for decades, and it has worked extremely well with refugees from other places,” said McCallum, citing refugees from Vietnam, Hungary and Uganda as examples of those who have thrived under the 12-month system. “It’s always a difficult process when you come from a war-torn country, you don’t speak the language, you may not have much education, it does take a certain amount of time,” McCallum said.

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