Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch says her supporters shouldn't be dismissed as racist for backing her proposal to screen prospective immigrants for "anti-Canadian values," and she won't rescind her policy pledge despite criticism from some after the Quebec mosque shooting.
In an interview with CBC News, Leitch said she still believes all prospective immigrants should take part in a one-on-one interview with officials before being admitted.
"I've been talking about a common-sense policy that talks about interviewing individuals, each and every individual, no matter what their place of origin," she said Tuesday.
'Many Canadians don't believe that they are racist because they agree with the policy.' - Kellie Leitch
"We have a Canadian identity, and it's grounded in values like hard work, generosity, freedom and tolerance. Those are the values that built our country, and those are the values that I'm talking about."
Her resolve to push ahead comes on a day when her constituency office in Collingwood, Ont., was targeted by protesters.
A banner with the names of the six victims killed in Sunday's attack was hung from the roof. The banner also said: "Hate puts us all at risk," and "#NotMyMP," with a call for Leitch to resign.
Staff at the constituency office called the Ontario Provincial Police early Wednesday soon after arriving for work.
The landlord later removed the sign, a spokesman for the campaign told CBC News. The OPP said an investigation is ongoing, adding there was no permanent structural damage done to the building. Her assistant also found coffee strewn over the office's windows and front door, although it is not clear if that came from the same group that hung the banner.
Leitch said Wednesday her campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, has apologized for calling a constitutional expert critical of her policies a "cuck" — short for cuckold — on Twitter, a term that is used online by members of the white supremacist and so-called alt-right movements.
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Made a mistake
Far-right activists have used the word to mock people who do not subscribe to their views.
"He recognizes that he had made a mistake, He has apologized, but individuals on my campaign are getting frustrated, continually, and whether that be my campaign manager, and quite frankly many of my supporters, but also many Canadians don't believe that they are racist because they agree with the policy."
The Ontario Conservative MP said she can't control the fact some party members, with extreme views, have been attracted to her campaign.
Michael Chong, another Conservative leadership contender, said the mosque attack was the consequence of fear mongering by political leaders pushing an anti-immigrant agenda.
"This mosque attack is no accident: It's a direct result of demagogues and wannabe demagogues playing to fears and prejudices," Chong tweeted after the attack.
Chong did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump and Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch by name, but Chong's spokesman, Chisholm Pothier, later confirmed that Trump and Leitch were the "demagogue" and "wannabe demagogue" the MP was referring to in his tweets.
"Proposals to add an additional screen for immigrants based on anti-Canadian values is not a practical solution, and frankly, is playing to fears and prejudices," Chong said later in a Facebook post.
Lisa Raitt, who has routinely denounced Leitch since entering the race to replace Stephen Harper as permanent leader late last year, told reporters that her opponent's screening plan is simply "fanning a flame" and risks hurting the party's chances in the next election.
"My concern about what Kellie says is it's not going to allow us to have a really strong showing in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), which is really made up of so many different cultures ... it's not a path that we can go down."
Leitch said she was not in the business of spreading hate.
"Michael's comments, I was shocked by. No matter whether we have differences of debate, no what matter the policy item, that is no licence for any individual to commit an act of violence against any other individual. It's simply unacceptable."