Is Kellie Leitch a Bigot?
Let’s begin by looking at the definition of a bigot. Essentially, it’s someone who is intolerant of anyone who is different. They might be from a different culture, religion, country – or they might simply have different views and opinions than your own. The key here is intolerance.
When you are tolerant, you may disagree with someone or not want to participate in their beliefs, but you understand that people are different and entitled to free expression. You leave others alone to live their lives, knowing they will do the same for you.
Kellie Leitch is a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. On her website, she lists four things which she believes Canada should do, and which she would promote if chosen to be the party leader. One of these is: Screening all visitors, refugees and immigrants for Canadian Values.
What are “Canadian Values”? Leitch has provided what she thinks this means: https://kellieworks.ca/screening-for-anti-canadian-values-2/, and on the surface it all looks very progressive. However, there’s subtext which isn’t so hopeful. Firstly, note that the web-link and the page heading don’t read the same; one says “screening-for-anti-canadian-values” while the other proclaims “Screening for Canadian Values”. Which is it?
She goes on to use the vocabulary of fear, accusing the current government of being “obsessed with immigration numbers” and implies that overworked immigration officers are allowing dangerous people to slip through the cracks. Finally, Leitch positions herself as “the only leadership candidate willing to talk about and stand up for a united Canadian identity that is based on shared, historic Canadian values,” as if the other contenders for party leader are somehow less patriotic or conscientious.
The Answer is Yes
Leitch is attempting to form a “false premise,” a term for basing an argument on an assumption which isn’t true. In this case, the assumption is that there is already an established list of “Canadian Values”, that she subscribed to it, and that every Canadian agrees with this list. Even more significant than this is that we somehow have a right to impose these values on people coming to Canada – even tourists.
If Leitch isn’t a bigot at heart, her false argument certainly makes her look like one. Worse yet, her objective appears to be a clear attempt to harness the bigotry which exists within the Conservative Party, and perhaps all of Canada. Individual bigotry is one thing, but becoming the national champion of bigotry is unforgivable.
In Canada, the only thing we share are those rules which are described and enforced by the law. While values may influence how laws are made, interpreted and applied, it is always a very delicate balance between creating a law to prevent harm while also avoiding doing harm. What does this mean? We have a perfect example in LGBT history.
For a long time, society thought homosexuality was harmful. Since it wasn’t what the majority of people did or felt, and was inconsistent with a widely held notion of what traditionally defined a family, it must be unnatural. If it was unnatural it must be harmful. This was the false premise, since we now know that homosexuality is actually a natural and healthy part of the spectrum of sexual orientations, and that it does nothing to harm the family.
The unintended consequence of making homosexuality illegal was that it caused harm rather than preventing it. When people were afraid to express their true sexual desires, they developed many psychological problems. Medical experts concluded that these problems were proof that homosexuals were mentally ill and needed to be cured. Furthermore, the law made it possible for homosexuals to lose their jobs, homes and respectability. So, people hid their sexuality, making it seem that there were fewer homosexuals, which only reinforced the perception that homosexuality was rare and unnatural.
This is just one example where a false premise, based on a supposed shared social value, caused harm instead of preventing it.
Leitch’s proposal would do much the same thing, by casting suspicion on anyone who was not already a member of Canadian society. And if prospective entries to Canada are treated with suspicion, this could also affect the way we view those who already live in Canada and who share similar traits.
For example, if her values test determines that those who follow a particular religion should be excluded from entering Canada, what will that mean for those Canadians who practice the same faith? Will they be deported? Will the government sanction these people? She’s really asking us all to become bigots.
Why would Leitch make her “Canadian Values” proposal when it’s so obviously wrong? Because she’s not actually interested in preventing harm. Leitch is instead hoping that enough people believe the false premise, that these people will agree to her proposal, and that this will be enough to win her the Conservative Party leadership.
Sound familiar? It’s exactly what Donald Trump did to become President of the USA. Just enough American’s believed that Mexicans and Muslims were dangerous, that the media and political establishment were corrupt, that they chose to elect Trump. Leitch has essentially torn a page from the Trump campaign book in an effort to become party leader herself.
What Can I Do?
Even if you don’t agree with the policies of the Conservative Party, and it never occurred to you to participate in their leadership contest, you can still make a difference. It is an historic truth that at some time in the future of Canada, the Conservatives will eventually form another government. While you might not want this to happen, at least help to ensure that a more tolerant person is their leader.
Here are three email addresses we’ve uncovered, two for the Conservative Party, and one for the Kellie Leitch leadership campaign: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage you to contact them to express your opinion. Be rational, be civil, but also be firm. Here’s a suggestion of something you might write:
Subject: Kellie Leitch is a Bigot
I don’t vote for the Conservative Party of Canada. But I believe it’s my civic responsibility to express how frightened Kellie Leitch’s position on immigrants, refugees and visitors is to the future of Canada. We cannot allow ourselves to be frightened by the differences of others. The idea that we can impose “Canadian Values” on others is repugnant, especially since no such set of values actually exists.
We already have a dark history of discrimination, including residential schools for First Nations children, the Chinese Head Tax, Japanese internment during WWII, and the firing of thousands of LGBT members from the civil service and military. We cannot allow this to happen again.
If the Conservative Party of Canada has any sense of history and decency, it will prevent its leadership candidates from engaging in such discourse. Canada believes in the rule of law, and this should be the only basis for welcoming the world. Free speech does not include the right to denigrate others. In fact, it’s contrary to our hate laws.
Do the right thing and disqualify Kellie Leitch as a leadership candidate. Let it be known that the Conservative Party is respectful of all peoples, and of the law.