CALGARY – Federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch hasn’t thought through her controversial position on screening immigrants for “anti-Canadian values,” former Tory immigration minister Jason Kenney says.
Following a speech in downtown Calgary on Friday, Kenney, who is seeking the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership, said he believes Leitch is pursuing an “improvised position” without understanding the negative impact of her words.
“I don’t take her position seriously, she’s never articulated it before,” Kenney said.
“She’s never said a word about this in Parliament, caucus or cabinet. I don’t think she understands the nuance around these issues. You have to be very careful in the way you articulate questions about integration.”
Leitch, a Conservative MP from Ontario, emailed a survey last week to supporters that included a question about whether the federal government should screen potential immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.”
She later said she is protecting Canadian values from people who believe that women are property and can be beaten or that gays and lesbians should be stoned.
Despite widespread criticism including unflattering comparisons to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, Leitch has defended her position that screening is needed without saying how immigration officials would actually vet new Canadians.
Kenney, a federal MP representing Calgary since 1997, was immigration minister from October 2008 to July 2013.
He boasted Friday that more immigrants became permanent residents of Canada – 1.5 million – when he was minister than under any other immigration minister.
He also defended the Conservatives as a pro-immigration government, adding that it improved security screening and brought in a law allowing quicker deportation of convicted foreign criminals.