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Kellie Leitch: Stricter immigration vetting ‘isn’t about identity politics’

Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch defends screening immigrants for Canadian values
WATCH ABOVE: Conservative Kellie Leitch says values screening for immigrants is about a unified Canadian identity, not identity politics.

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is continuing to defend the choice to poll her supporters about vetting immigrants for ‘anti-Canadian values,’ saying it’s not her intention to get into a debate about identity politics.

“For me, what I’m doing right now is I’m out introducing myself…to the Canadian public,” Leitch told The West Block’s Tom Clark in an interview this weekend.

“This isn’t about identity politics, and I understand the compulsion to go there … but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is a unified Canadian identity.”

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The former Status of Women minister pointed to a set of values and virtues she feels are key to that identity, including “hard work, generosity, freedom,” and a belief in the equality of men and women. Respect for religious and sexual diversity is also important, she noted.

READ MORE: Kellie Leitch campaign asks about screening new arrivals for ‘anti-Canadian values’

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Those are the values that built Canada, Leitch told Clark, and the reason why her family and so many others came to this country.

“I want to protect those values,” she said.

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Immigration officials already screen new arrivals for things like health and income, Leitch said, so “it’s not such a stretch to ask people if they believe in the equality of men and women.”

Leitch drew fire from all sides of the House of Commons at the end of August when her campaign sent out an email survey to supporters asking about a variety of issues.

One of the questions was: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants?”

Asked to comment on a new poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of GlobalNews that shows her with just two per cent of popular support to become the next Conservative leader, Leitch said she would not comment on the numbers.

“I expect individuals to evaluate me through the leadership process … we have a nine-month process.”

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The Conservatives are scheduled to choose a permanent replacement for former prime minister Stephen Harper in May 2017.