Leitch’s “Canadian values” pose an even bigger threat after U.S. election

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States was a dark day for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and ethnic and religious minorities across the world. Trump rode a wave of xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia straight to the White House, and now millions are fearing for their rights and for their lives.

However, Kellie Leitch, an orthopedic surgeon and MP for Simcoe-Grey in Ontario aims to utilize a very similar strategy to gain support here in Canada.  

As a frontrunner in the race for Conservative Party leadership, Leitch put forward a platform emphasizing “Canadian values,” which includes plans to screen immigrants and refugees based on these vague qualifications.  

Leitch consistently deflects accusations of racism within her Canadian values platform by refusing to acknowledge the way her vague policy could appeal to Canadians who harbour discriminatory tendencies.  

“What I will say is people who believe women are property, that they can be beaten, bought and sold, or believe that gays and lesbians should be stoned to death because of who they love don’t share our Canadian values,” explained Leitch in an interview with the CBC.

When Maclean’s journalist Anne Kingston pointed out in another interview that “stoned” is only used in reference to Muslim nations, Leitch simply replied with, “People want to put words in my mouth.”

“Let me be very frank,” Leitch said later in the interview. “Canadians value freedom of religion. Full stop. That includes all religions. Full stop. So please don’t imply based on something I said means I’m anti-X, Y, or Z.”

Leitch has responded similarly in several other interviews, stating that the public isn’t allowed to bring up the racist implications of her policies because she’s never said, “I am a racist.”

Considering the strong link between anti-immigration rhetoric and hate crimes, we need to hold Leitch accountable. Data from Britain’s National Police Chief Council showed that there was a 58 per cent increase in hate crimes in the week following the Brexit vote in June. Women’s  groups in Quebec reported an uptick in verbal and physical assaults against Muslim women following the introduction of the province’s Charter of Values in 2013.

In the United States there has been a slew of islamophobic, anti-semitic, racist, sexist, and homophobic hate crimes committed since Nov. 8. The facts are clear—anti-diversity sentiments from elites lead to discrimination and prejudice from individuals.

People in power must be aware and responsible for the influence and impact their rhetoric has, especially in tense times. The fact that Leitch refuses to take responsibility for the racist subtext of her Canadian values screening is shameful.

While she has tried to draw a line between Canadian values and discrimination against minorities, the type of people who are spray painting swastikas and assaulting hijabi girls clearly aren’t listening.

While I do believe that there are values that many Canadians share, and minorities should be guaranteed fair treatment and protected from discrimination, Leitch fails to take into account the immigrants whose opinions have progressed throughout their time living in Canada. Besides, there are many us born and raised in Canada who have also been guilty of espousing backwards beliefs at some point, but we had the opportunity to learn and develop over time—and our country is better for it.    

Secondly, Leitch has refused to provide specifics about how this process would be carried out and what we would be screening for. Does she mean the Canadian values of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, who has a long history of racism and misogyny? Or what about the times in a history when we banned Asian immigration, made Asian immigrants pay a head tax, or interned Japanese-Canadians? Or the forced sterilizations that robbed thousands of their reproductive capabilities? Or what about the colonization and oppression of Canada’s Indigenous communities?

Which set of Canadian values does Leitch mean?

Now I don’t mean to imply that Leitch actually wants to bring back any of these barbaric Canadian practices. However, we must recognize that time and time again these attempts to define Canadian values and identity has meant the discrimination and exclusion of minorities and women. Leitch isn’t the exception, but the rule of Canadian politics. We have been at this crossroads many times before, but the good news is we’re fighting it more vigorously than ever before.   

For those of you who revel in Trump’s victory as the monumental “Fuck You” to establishment politics that it undeniably is, be aware that minorities have been screwed by “the system” as well. Minorities aren’t your enemy, we’re your allies in the fight to keep politicians accountable.  

We can demand revolutionary change from our representatives without using immigrants as scapegoats. And for all you anti-establishment Trump types out there, don’t be fooled—Kellie Leitch, a former Minister of Labour and Status of Women Minister under the Harper government, is as establishment as it gets.

Finally, I want to address Leitch’s claims that she advocates for screening out of deference for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. If that’s true, why did she call the election of a presidential candidate who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women “an exciting message”?

I don’t mean to suggest that Leitch condones sexual assault and homophobia, only to say that her silence on these two issues as it pertains to the U.S. election is powerful.

Trump’s victory was extremely painful, but don’t let it paralyze you. We need to make it clear, at home and abroad, that our rights are not negotiable. This begins by stopping Kellie Leitch’s brand of Trump politics from succeeding in Canada.