Setting the Record Straight on Canadian Values
On January 30th, 2017 a gunman entered the Centre culturel islamique de Québec in Quebec City and tragically took the lives of six Canadians. This event was perceived in Canada as blatant islamophobia and an attack on our closely held Canadian values. However, in an attempt to explain what is still unclear, individuals have pointed to rising islamophobia in North America, perpetuated by American President Donald Trump, National Front President and French Politician Marine Le Pen, and Conservative Party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch.
Kellie Leitch has proposed screening new immigrants and refugees to Canada for ‘Canadian-values’ using face-to-face interviews with immigration officers. On Leitch’s website, she has listed equal opportunity, hard work, helping others, generosity, freedom, and tolerance as examples of these Canadian values. Following the tragedy in Quebec, Leitch and her proposal received staunch criticism across party lines, with Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong saying that the tragedy was a “direct result” of the actions of Leitch and others, while NDP leadership candidate Peter Julian stated that he condemns Leitch’s hatred and bigotry.
However, Leitch’s screening policy has found broad support with 67% of all Canadians supporting screening for Canadian values according to a poll conducted by the Toronto Star, while a poll by Insights West found that it is supported by 79% of Conservatives and 54% of all Canadians. If we believe the rhetoric of Chong and Julian, we must ask ourselves what is so islamophobic, bigoted, racist, and hateful about screening for Canadian values?
The answer? Absolutely nothing. In fact, as previously stated, ‘tolerance’ is listed as one of those Canadian values and Kellie Leitch has stated that her values test would apply to every new Canadian, which includes white supremacists attempting to immigrate. There is nothing inherently hateful about ensuring that new Canadians have the same values set that we do.
Additionally, there is nothing in the policy or anything that Kellie has said that would imply that this policy would unfairly target any segment of new Canadians. To suggest that ensuring new Canadians follow the values laid out in Leitch’s policy is islamophobic, would be to say that Muslims do not adhere to those values, which is a notion I strongly reject. All immigrants to Canada, no matter origin, religion or skin colour, are any more or less likely to adhere to our Canadian values. Canadian values screening is not dog-whistle politics, Leitch has stated explicitly and unequivocally that this is a policy for all new Canadians, and has denounced all those who seek to spin it against a subset of the population. This is not an anti-Muslim policy or an anti-immigrant policy; this is a pro-Canada policy.
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What we are witnessing with politicians such as Michael Chong, is political opportunism and an attempt to capitalize on tragedy. Chong attempted to squarely blame Leitch by unfairly linking her to an attack carried out by a man that acted independently and unprompted. He did this, not because there is a shred of evidence to link Leitch to the attacker, or even evidence to suggest the attacker knew who Leitch was, bur rather he did it to use a tragedy for political gain.
There is rising islamophobia across the world, we need only to look south of our border to witness it in action. Imposing a travel ban that forbids seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States perpetuates islamophobia. Ensuring that all new immigrants to Canada have a face-to-face interview with an immigration officer and that they share our Canadian values does not. Rightfully, we must denounce islamophobia in all its forms, but screening for Canadian values is not islamophobic. We should condemn this attack on Canadian Muslims, not seek to use it for political gain. Shamefully politicizing this tragedy will accomplish nothing.
The Prince Arthur Herald
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