Kellie Leitch’s platform is built entirely on fixing immigration problems – but do they even exist?
By: Tom Rose, Staff Writer
With everything that’s gone on in the early months of Trump’s presidency – and the disasters leading up to it – it’s easy to lose sight of the troubles we have at home. As someone whose job is literally keeping up with the news, I myself occasionally allow political issues in Canada to become obfuscated by events south of the border. So, it was not really a surprise to me this past week that every time I brought up the name “Kellie Leitch”, I was met with a similar response from many of my friends and colleagues – “Kellie Leitch?” they’d ask, “Which one is she?”
Leitch, former MP for Simcoe-Grey and former appointee to such prestigious positions as Minister of Labour and Minister for the Status of Women, announced her bid for leadership of the Conservative Party in 2016. Her platform rests mostly on the concept of screening immigrants, refugees, and visitors to Canada for “anti-Canadian Values”. After keeping up on what that actually entailed for a while, Leitch has detailed that her plan would consist of screening all immigrants to the country via face-to-face interviews – as opposed to the roughly 10% total current immigration policy meets. In these interviews, Leitch says, candidates would be asked questions which will allegedly weed out those who don’t share cited values such as “Tolerance, Hard Work, Freedom, and Equality”. While those are values that admittedly sound very appealing, a hard look at Leitch’s platform belies the fear mongering of which it consists. Leitch’s platform feeds into a present and vocal Nationalist sentiment, which has been played out in events such as Brexit and the U.S. Election by exacerbating phony issues.
But don’t take my word for it – McMaster professor Victor Satzewich, author of the book Points of Entry is often cited by Leitch in her campaigning for the way his research supports her proposals about immigration reform. Satzewich says of Leitch’s campaign cornerstone that “it’s a phony issue…to say that immigrants don’t have or…develop the so-called values” she claims to be defending. In a recent interview with the CBC, Satzewich said Leitch’s plan betrays a misunderstanding of how immigration officials make their decision on citizenship.
In a campaign video released early this month, Leitch claims, “Our immigration system is more concerned with quotas than it is with ensuring immigration officials are able to counsel newcomers to Canada”. Satzewich counters that there is a fundamental difference to what Leitch “deliberately” refers to as quotas and the stated immigration “targets” for which visa officers strive. “There’s flexibility [in a target]”, says Satzewich, adding that “The immigration minister stands up in Parliament each year and announces these targets. [Leitch] didn’t seem to complain when her government did the same”.
Admitting that his research shows that immigration officials “may not have enough time to dig as deeply” into certain files as they’d like, Satzewich thinks that Leitch deliberately misrepresents the amount of screening performed to decide whether or not a candidate is admissible or not. Reportedly, Satzewich expressed these concerns to Leitch in a phone call earlier this year, causing Leitch to pledge she would “look into the issue some more”. On March 7th, Leitch’s campaign sent an email detailing three example questions to be asked in her redrafted immigration policy. Hard-hitting, personality-defining questions such as: “Are men and women equal?” and “Is it ever OK [sic] to coerce or use violence against an individual or a group who disagrees with your views?”
If it sounds like those questions are ridiculous, it’s because they are. Besides the fact that they sound like the sort of thing you might ask a child to prompt discussion after an elementary school class on diversity, it seems glaringly obvious that those who don’t agree with the values those questions are probing for can just lie. For Leitch, however, this is where those face to face interviews come into play – they would presumably give officials a chance to ask potential entrants if they cross their heart and hope to die. Writing for Global News, Tasha Kheriddin mocks Leitch’s proposal as unfair. “If the only way to be truly Canadian was to uphold Canadian values” says Kherridin, “our country would be a paradise.”A solid point, considering the wealth of Canadian citizens I have personally met who seem to laugh in the face of Leitch’s values. What are we to do, deport everyone who’s a dick?
Whether you’re for or against stricter immigration policies, it seems clear that Leitch’s proposal is lacking a solid understanding of current immigration policies at best, and a thinly-veiled xenophobic move to prod at surprisingly potent fears at worst. Either way, Leitch and her platform merit close attention as May inches closer.