Conservative MP Kellie Leitch is facing new criticism after she issued a tweet portraying the legacy of the Liberals' Syrian refugee program as a lone domestic violence case involving a Syrian refugee in Fredericton.
Social media erupted after Ms. Leitch tweeted Sunday: "A battered wife and a bloodied hockey stick. That's the legacy of Trudeau's Syrian refugee program," quoting and including a link to a Toronto Sun column about a Syrian refugee in Fredericton who beat his wife with a hockey stick. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Ms. Leitch's tweet is as disgraceful as domestic violence itself.
"It's [domestic violence] clearly something that we abhor and we condemn. What Ms. Leitch is doing is equally reprehensible because she's tying in a problem that exists everywhere – both in refugee communities and in … our society. This is a problem that many societies grapple with. She's tying that in with our refugee policy," Mr. Hussen said in an interview with The Globe and Mail on Monday.
The column, written by Candice Malcolm last Friday, attempts to make the case for Ms. Leitch's Canadian values test, saying it would have "gone a long way" in the case of Mohamad Rafia, who told the court he didn't know it was against Canadian law to beat his wife. The Syrian refugee, who arrived in Canada 14 months ago, was sentenced to one year probation, according to a report by The Daily Gleaner on June 8.
Ms. Leitch's proposed "Canadian values test" was a key part of her recent Conservative leadership campaign. The test would make newcomers go through face-to-face interviews with trained immigration officers to screen for Canadian values such as freedom, tolerance and generosity.
Ms. Leitch lost last month's Conservative leadership vote, dropping off the ballot at the ninth of thirteen rounds with 7.95 per cent of the vote. Andrew Scheer won the race and now leads the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, where Ms. Leitch sits on his front bench.
When contacted by The Globe Monday, Ms. Leitch's phone line went dead. Follow-up calls were not answered.
Asked about Ms. Leitch's tweet, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said she would not speak on behalf of her colleague.
"I'm not going to speak on behalf of one member of our party. I'm going to speak on behalf of the record of our former government and the very positive and assertive position that we've taken as a party since the last election on a Conservative vision for helping the world's most vulnerable, including refugees."
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan accused Ms. Leitch of "fear mongering."
"Kellie Leitch continues to spout divisive dog-whistle rhetoric even after her own party rejected her and her ideas," Ms. Kwan said.
The Liberal government campaigned on a promise to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. More than 40,000 Syrian refugees have resettled in Canada since November, 2015.
According to The Daily Gleaner report, Mr. Rafia told the court that the law was not explained to him upon arrival in Canada, but a police brief entered as evidence indicated he knew domestic violence was illegal in Canada and Syria.
Mr. Hussen defended the government's Syrian refugee program, saying all newcomers go through a "vigorous screening system" and pre- and post-arrival orientation programs where they are briefed on Canadian laws.
"We talk about Canadian laws. We talk about Canadian responsibilities. We talk about how people can adjust quickly to Canadian society, what the expectations are."