In early September, Conservative Party MP Kellie Leitch began her campaign for leadership of the party. In doing so, she has purposed that one of her main focuses as a party leader is immigration, particularly through screening newcomers for what she deems “anti-Canadian values.” While Leitch has a strong stance on protecting Canadians, she has yet to define what “Canadian values” are in a multicultural country such as our own.
As far as her campaign goes, things could get messy: Unless the values she champions are defined, it seems that all Leitch is doing is “protecting” Canadians by promoting a “let’s put up walls” attitude instead of the “open arms” approach to those wishing to immigrate here.
By arguing for a systematic checklist of values to get in the country, we are left with a situation as frustrating as when professors let us choose our own topic and marking rubric: each person’s idea of our nation’s values is completely different and has the potential to separate, rather than unite the country.
I’m sure that many Canadians would agree with Leitch that some sort of screening process should occur when accepting newcomers to the country. However, the problem lies in Leitch’s inability to define these Canadian values, who decides them, and what we do if current Canadians disagree with them. Canada takes pride in being a multicultural society, a point that all political parties agree on, and with each culture comes a set of values that one chooses to live their life by. Leitch has cited freedom of religion and promotion of gender equality as some things immigrants may be screened for; and yet, during the 2015 federal election, she was one of the candidates behind the ‘barbaric cultural practices’ hotline — a strange move for someone who’s preaching equality and freedom of religion.
Using vague language around ‘finding jobs for Canadians’ and ‘stimulating the economy’ to win a campaign is one thing, but using it to win a campaign fueled on the fear-mongering of other cultures (which at this point just seems like Muslim cultures) creates an issue bigger than politics. This is the same sort of tactic that Donald Trump has been using in his campaign: Pointing to immigrants as the source of terrorism creates an us-versus-them dichotomy that only furthers harmful anti-immigrant sentiment. If Leitch isn’t careful, she could slip into a hate-fueled campaign similar to Trump’s that creates a divide in the country based on opinions that lack educated support.
Yes, federal politics generally operate on campaigning about large-scale issues while never promising specific action plans, but making ill-defined statements regarding immigration (which may in some cases save lives) can create a divide in a nation which boasts acceptance of everyone. Leitch needs to do some damage control by being more clear about what she means by Canadian values, and by outlining a plan for immigration that both protects Canada and isn’t so problematic in its connotations. Her exploitation of fear in a time of uncertainty should not be something any political party stands for, so unless Leitch can get it together, the Conservative party should consider finding another candidate to make national headlines, hopefully for policies less extreme.