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Kellie Leitch listens to a question during a news conference following the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa last year. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Kellie Leitch listens to a question during a news conference following the National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Ottawa last year. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Globe editorial

Who gets to decide what ‘Canadian values’ are? Add to ...

Kellie Leitch, the Conservative MP and candidate for her party’s leadership, caused a stir last week when she e-mailed supporters with a questionnaire that asked them, among other things, whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.”

Ms. Leitch was duly criticized, but she didn’t back down. “Screening potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values that include intolerance towards other religions, cultures and sexual orientations, violent and/or misogynist behaviour and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms is a policy proposal that I feel very strongly about,” she said Friday.

It’s now clear that Ms. Leitch is all too happy to play identity politics. This is the same person who, as minister for the Status of Women during the federal election campaign last year, announced the creation of a tip line for people to report “barbaric cultural practices.” She later claimed she was misunderstood. She wasn’t. It’s clearly her practice to sell policies that raise fears of Muslim immigrants based on inaccurate stereotypes about their culture and beliefs.

There are two kinds of politicians today: those who exploit tensions created by immigration and terrorism to gain power; and those who recognize the tensions, and look for solutions. Donald Trump is in the former camp. Ms. Leitch apparently wants to join him. For the good of our country, Conservatives must reject this.

The suggestion that there are government-defined “Canadian values” is frightening. In this country, new citizens swear an oath to “faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill [their] duties as a Canadian citizen.” There are no prescribed religious or cultural beliefs, just a vow to respect our constitution and our laws, and to accept the consequences of failing to do so.

What Ms. Leitch is toying with – a government that tells people what to believe and how to think – is itself anti-Canadian. Yes, Canadians have values. No, the state doesn’t get to tell you what Canadian values are.

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