Kellie Leitch defends 'anti-Canadian values' survey question
Her campaign asks if immigrants should be screened to determine their values
Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is defending a contentious survey question from her campaign team that asked supporters what they think about vetting would-be immigrants and refugees for "anti-Canadian values."
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The survey made headlines on Thursday, with at least one Conservative strategist calling for her to withdraw from the race.
"Canadians can expect to hear more, not less from me, on this topic in the coming months," Leitch wrote in an emailed statement.
"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."
The rest of the survey, which was sent to those who signed up for news from the Leitch campaign, gauges support on a variety of issues, including electoral reform, corporate tax cuts and the legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use.
One question refers to denying citizenship to someone who recants the pledge to the Queen after taking it; another asks about incarcerating terrorists instead of providing "therapy and counselling."
"Oftentimes, debating and discussing these complex policies requires tough conversations — conversations that go well beyond media sound bites and simplified labels," wrote Leitch.
"I am committed to having these conversations, to debating theses issues, and I invite Canadians to give their feedback."
'Does not represent our CPC'
On Friday, Michael Chong, who is also running for the Conservative leadership, said the suggestion that some immigrants are "anti-Canadian does not represent our Conservative Party or our Canada."
"The language and context that Kellie used has led key Conservatives, including prime minister Harper's former director of policy [Rachel Curran], to criticize this move as the worst of dog-whistle politics," he wrote in an email.
Chong's father immigrated from China and his mother from the Netherlands.
Conservative strategist Chad Rogers called on Leitch to withdraw her candidacy.
"You don't get to apologize twice for the same mistake," said Rogers, a founding partner at Crestview Strategy.
Regrets barbaric cultural practices tip line
On Thursday, Leitch's campaign manager Nick Kouvalis said more than 8,000 people had responded to the survey since Tuesday and that it was based on subjects Leitch had been hearing about from Conservatives during her travels across Canada since launching her leadership bid in the spring.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, Leitch helped promote a controversial Conservative promise to establish a tip line for so-called "barbaric cultural practices," aimed at helping the RCMP enforce a law aimed at cracking down on forced marriages and keeping polygamists out of Canada.
Not long after she began her Conservative leadership campaign, Leitch expressed regret for that position, even becoming visibly emotional during an interview in April on CBC News Network's panel show Power & Politics.
She said her goal of protecting woman and girls was lost in the broader conversation about the role that ethnic and cultural identity politics played in the Conservative campaign, which included a proposed ban on the niqab — a face covering worn by some Muslim women — during Canadian citizenship ceremonies.
With files from The Canadian Press