Kellie Leitch: An Example of “New Racism”

On Sept 7, 2016 Kellie Leitch posted a tweet in which she shared an article that appeared in Macleans magazine.  The article set out her proposal to vet all newcomers to Canada for “anti-Canadian values”.

On January 29, 2017 six Muslim men were murdered in a Quebec mosque by a white Canadian man who apparently harboured anti-Muslim, anti-immigration views.

Kellie Leitch tweeted that her “thoughts and prayers” were with “the victims”.  She did not mention the fact that the victims were Muslim or that they’d been murdered in a mosque.  Their identities had been erased.

Her “thoughts and prayers” tweet appeared directly beneath her Sept 7, 2016 tweet urging supporters to READ LIKE & SHARE the Macleans article which described her anti-Canadian values screening process.

The screening proposal

On Feb 2, a few days after the slaughter in the mosque, Ms Leitch doubled down on her proposal in a lengthy Facebook post describing her plan “to screen all immigrants, refugees, and visitors to Canada for Canadian values with face-to-face interviews with a trained immigration officer.”


Kellie Leitch MP

Her plan is based on the following premise:

“Canadians are proud of their country.  They are proud of our unified identity and they are proud of shared, historic values.”

 “our unified identity”

Until Ms Leitch coined the term, Canadians weren’t aware that they had a unified identity.

Canadians have had a hard time pinning down their Canadian identity (unlike many older countries, Canada’s identity is not synonymous with a dominant ethnic group, for example Germans in Germany) let alone a unified Canadian identity…but that didn’t stop Ms Leitch from deciding we had one.

 “shared, historic values”

Ms Leitch says our shared, historic values are “hard work, generosity, freedom, tolerance, equality of individuals, and equality of opportunity”.  She says these are “civic values, not ethnic ones” and all those who subscribe to them are welcome in Canada regardless of where they were born.

What Ms Leitch defines as “values” are either personality traits (I work hard/you are a slacker, I am generous/you are miserly) or fundamental rights guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They are not values which are defined as individual principles or standards of behavior.

Protecting “values”

Ms Leitch says Canadians want a leader (Ms Leitch) who will “protect and promote our unified identity (as defined by Ms Leitch) and these shared values (as defined by Ms Leitch).”

She implies these Canadian values are under siege because hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees are admitted to Canada each year via a flawed immigration system.

She bases her argument on a book, Points of Entry: How Canada’s Visa Officers Decide Who Gets In, written by Dr Vic Satzewich, a sociology professor at McMaster University.

Ms Leitch claims that Dr Satzewich’s research supports her position that immigration officers, as the first line of defense of Canadian values, should conduct face-to-face interviews with all newcomers to determine whether they harbour anti-Canadian values.

Unfortunately for Ms Leitch, Dr Satzewich vehemently disagrees with her characterization of his work.    

In a letter to the Globe & Mail published on Feb 2, 2017, Dr Satzewich said “Kellie Leitch wrongly promotes [my book] to justify her proposal to screen immigrants for Canadian values”.  He says Ms Leitch should read “even more sociology”, and offers his book Racism in Canada in which he discusses “the notion of “new racism,” which is a way that politicians are able to use code words to talk about race and justify racist ideas and policies without explicitly using racial terms.”

Dr Satzewich says new racism informed Margaret Thatcher’s “anti-immigrant discourse” and is a key part of Donald Trump’s approach to immigration, and makes this solemn promise:  “Rest assured that I will use Dr Leitch and her proposal in the next edition as a Canadian example.”

Dog-whistle politics

Ms Leitch says her plan is not racist because it applies equally to all applicants including white supremacists who want to enter Canada. This is bizarre because white supremacists are already here—they’re the ones endorsing Ms Leitch’s screening plan to keep immigrants out.

If Ms Leitch doesn’t realize she’s using “new racism” to deliver racist messages to white supremacists she lacks the sensitivity and the judgment to become the next leader of the CPC.

If Ms Leitch knows she’s using “new racism” to attract supporters she’s engaging in dog-whistle politics and lacks the integrity to become the next leader of the CPC.

In either case it’s time for conservative voters to count her out.

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22 Responses to Kellie Leitch: An Example of “New Racism”

  1. Thank you Susan on the Soapbox. I love your conclusion. If Ms Leitch doesn’t realize she’s using “new racism” to deliver racist messages to white supremacists she lacks the sensitivity and the judgment to become the next leader of the CPC. If Ms Leitch knows she’s using “new racism” to attract supporters she’s engaging in dog-whistle politics and lacks the integrity to become the next leader of the CPC. In either case it’s time for conservative voters to count her out. I am very concerned by politicians and media who promote racism by comments like hers.

  2. Thanks Linda. I found it very troubling that a well educated candidate like Ms Leitch would cherry pick her way through Dr. Satzewich’s book in order to justify her screening proposal. Dr Satzewich has refuted her claim over and over again. He says his book was pro-immigration and that her screening policy harks back to the time when immigration officers assigned points for what was known as a “personal suitability” screening. The program was a disaster because there was no consistency in how immigration officers assigned such points and applicants clogged up the Federal Court with hundreds of appeals.

  3. Ed Henderson says:

    So whats the correct way?
    Should Canada open up the doors to everyone? Should Canada open up the doors to just those seeking shelter from dangerous situations in their homeland? Should Canada open up the doors to just the sick and those unable to defend themselves? Should Canada open up the doors to only those able to support themselves? Should Canada open up the doors to everyone who wants to come to Canada regardless of their ability to contribute to Canada?
    Who should come to Canada?

    • GoinFawr says:

      Good questions Ed, you might start at:
      for some answers.

      For what it is worth, when it comes to ‘new’ and/or ‘quasi’ immigration I too have some grave concerns; especially regarding projects like the wage-lowering Temporary Foreign Workers program and its suppressing effect on the middle class’ income. In my opinion (apart from actual humanitarian exigencies) immigration should be heavily curtailed until Canadian unemployment is effectively zero percent, and/or the minimum wage is actually livable across the board.
      For too long the Conservative and Liberal gov’ts both have used immigration on behalf of the business community as a lever on to bust unions and decrease Canadian workers’ wages by diluting the labour pool. Worst of all, often this has been accomplished under the guise of saving refugees, because who on earth with their blood running warm is going to question that motive?

      • Ed, very good questions. There are two issues here: First, is what is Canada’s policy on refugees? Canada is a signatory to the Refugee Convention which says countries can’t turn away someone whose life or freedom will be threatened if they’re forced to return to their home country. Does this policy extend to “economic” refugees who’ll starve to death if they stay home? Historian Jennifer Walsh says the protection of refugees should extend to economic refugees but notes that the number of people on the move (65 million world wide) is unprecedented and countries need to work together to address it.
        The second issue is what’s our immigration (ie, non-refugee) policy? Dr Vic Satzewich says when Jason Kenney was Immigration Minister he “was able to inset the Conservative Party’s priorities into the visa-processing and implementation process” (p 40).
        As GoinFawr points out the CPC’s priorities to help industry access cheap labour through the TFW program were not in the best interests of Canadians.
        These are the kinds of conversations our political leaders should be having instead of relying on a Trumped-up immigration policy to scare up votes.

    • carlosbeca says:

      Well Ed that is very simple to answer. Canada should open the doors to those that fit the people we need to have working in the country and that do not have a criminal record.
      That is all. We are the ones who have the yes and no stamp so we do not need to go overboard either way. I am not sure why this getting so complicated. There are Canadians that are terrorists and have gone to ISIS and they were borne and raised here, so what is the question?
      What Leitch is proposing is that we are perfect and we should check for perfection. Well ask our native people if they think we are perfect to start with and then we can examine the rest of it,
      The issue is that we are getting self righteous and egocentric due to our fortunate situation in Canada. We should not lose contact with reality. We could be in a totally different situation in the future, no one knows. Being modest, humble and compassionate does not make us stupid, it just makes us better people.

  4. Susan Palmer says:

    Once again yay Susan! I really appreciate the thoughtful and well evidenced blogs you write and this is just another fine example. Please keep on with it.

    • Thank you Susan! Dr Vic Satzewich must be going bonkers trying to get Kellie Leitch to stop using his book to support her position. I really hope the next edition of his book on “the new racism” comes out soon. I’d love to cite him as the authority for the proposition that Leitch has brought dog-whistle politics to a whole new (disgusting) level.

      • jane walker says:

        Good point, Susan! Your reference to ‘going bonkers’ for Dr Satzewich, I can empathize. I am ‘going bonkers’ with the alt right use of the Bible as support for their position(s). Eeeek! As a longtime Anglican I am aghast!! As an enlightened Canadian liberal thinker in 2017, I am often terrified!

      • Jane, your comment reminded me of a tweet I saw last night from David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, who is delighted with Trump’s cabinet picks, particularly Bannon and Sessions. David Duke says he’s not “anti-black” but “pro-white” and “pro-Christian”. He left the KKK and formed the National Association for the Advancement of White People because, well, I guess because white people have it so bad in the US. These guys are unbelievable!

  5. I hope a good many Canadians will buy CPC memberships to ensure that Leitch is not the next leader of a once great party.

    • I’m with you on this Blog Fodder. Perhaps Kellie Leitch’s campaign office can had out copies of the Council of European Canadians blog which features Kellie Leitch on the cover under the headline Kellie Leitch: The Alt-Right Candidate of Canada? I read the article by the way, the author says while she’s not the perfect candidate, she’ll do. Makes you shudder to think what the “perfect” candidate would look like.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Leitch wanted to be different from the others and so put together this ‘Canadian Values’ proposal.
    I would like to understand first of all what she calls a Canadian. Is it a person that has been here for longer than 10 generations? If that is the case then we should get the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations to examine her values. After all I do not think that they think we were nice people at all. We just came in and packed them in reserves. Are these the values she is talking about?
    One really has to be self righteous to be blaring out this kind of nonsense.
    I have met many Canadians (whatever how many generations) that have very weak values indeed, case in point Kevin O’Leary. Most politicians have no ethical values whatsoever and they are screening others!!!???? Yeah right.
    She needs to befriend Ambrose and get a vacation in the billionaire’s yacht.

  7. Jonathan says:

    I confess that I find it rather odd that Ms.Leitch defines Canadians’ unified identity of shared historic values as encompassing “hard work, generosity, freedom, tolerance, equality of individuals, and equality of opportunity” and yet, as a (presumably?) proud Canadian, she seems rather lacking in several of these herself. It would seem that she needs to spend a little more time on either self-examination, or in reflecting on what it really means to be Canadian. And, in that latter respect, I’d agree with Carlos – I’d be quite interested in how she defines ‘Canadian’ before I’d entrust her with being the one to clearly espouse the ‘shared historic values’ that we (?) apparently (?!?) all share.

    • I agree with you Jonathan. It’s instructive to compare Leitch’s definition our shared Canadian identity with the one espoused by Joe Canadian in the “I am Canadian” beer ad (which was created in 1994). Among the many brilliant things Joe says is this: “I believe in diversity not assimilation”. The poet John Robert Columbo included the ad in his Treasury of Popular Canadian Poems and Songs because “the open-minded reader will respond to the power of the words that express a human need to affirm an identity in the face of ignorance and indifference”, Here’s the link:

      • Jonathan says:

        Ah, Joe. Thank you Susan for invoking him – I’d forgotten about his glorious rant. I had not encountered Columbo’s statement before, but appreciate his suggestion that Joe expresses our ‘need to affirm an identity’. I like that he suggests ‘affirm’ as opposed to ‘confirm’. Part of what seems so off-putting about the antics of Ms. Leitch, at least for me, is her insistence on a narrowly proscriptive Canadian identity, when, alternatively, an enduring aspect of ‘the Canadian identity’ is that it seems so profoundly reflective. We’re not ever sure what ‘it’ is (other than toques, hockey, and our determination to adhere to our pronunciation of the last letter of the alphabet), but in many ways that uncertainty is a great strength – a sense that ‘the Canadian identity’ has the ability to constantly fluctuate to allow for the inclusion of something(s) – or someone(s) – other than what we initially thought. Ms. Leitch and her ilk, by attempting to fix the limits of a shared identity, thus actually undercut the unifying potential of our historical Canadian uncertainty. We aren’t really sure what/who we are, but as soon as someone tries to tell us the ‘right’ answer, it just feels wrong somehow.

      • Jonathan, this is so true. We moved to Pennsylvania in 2000 and lived there for seven years. We expected it to be a relatively easy move because, well, Americans are like us, right? We were surprised to discover just how far apart we were on the issues that really matter: politics (we got lots of flak for not rushing to Bush’s side when he invaded Iraq), race and gun control (which was conflated in many of our friends’ minds ie. you need guns because “they” might break your door down (??). Then there was the great “zed” incident where my daughter was balled out by her high school math teacher for saying “zed” not “zee”. He thought she was trying to mock him. Or the time we got a phone call at home from an Army recruiter who’d gotten my daughter’s contact information from the school, apparently your kids are fair game down there.
        It may be difficult to define the Canadian identity but we know who we are and we don’t need politicians like Kellie Leitch filling in the blanks for us.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Jonathan, it is very difficult not to agree with you. Very intelligent post.
        What I liked best is the ‘ …profoundly reflective’ – this is exactly how I define my Canadian identity.
        Susan talked about the fact that people were a bit upset that they did not rush to Bush’s calamity in Iraq. I dare say that we are not the big ‘ blindly follow the leader’ type people.

        I found the most important trait when I came to Canada. It is very simple – anyone that wants to be a Canadian will always be taken into our ways without questions. I was not born here but I was ready be part of the Canadian fabric and I now fully understand what being a Canadian means. I cannot define it but I can feel it and that to me is what matters.

      • Carlos you bring an important perspective to this discussion about the Canadian identity. My parents who fled Hungary in 1950 would agree with you.

        I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest thing Kellie Leitch is promoting so here it is She wants us to “join the movement” if we agree that we should let the people speak on matters of national importance.

        First she told us our “shared Canadian identity” was under attack; now she’s telling us that our right to “speak on matters of national importance” disappeared. The woman is bananas.

  8. C. Hunt says:

    Ask Dr. Leitch and the Conservative Party if ‘Greed is Good’ and “I Love Money’ are Canadian values supported by their politicians. If not, why are these people running for party leadership?

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Thank you C. Hunt. How can I have missed the ‘Greed is Good’ cry of the Neo-Cons.
      I will not forgive myself on this one 🙂
      To me the best one is ‘Society does not exist, only individuals..’ by our maybe now canonized Saint Margaret Thatcher.

  9. C Hunt and Carlos: When politicians look at everything through the economic lens of the free market then everything can be solved using an economic solution…and if what ails society stubbornly refuses to yield to an economic solution, then society doesn’t exist (a la Margaret thatcher).
    The best example of this is governments’ belief that globalization would bring peace and prosperity to all. It turned out governments got it wrong and now everyone, including that venerable conservative publication, The Economist, has declared globalism is dead.
    So where does that leave us? With idiots like Donald Trump and Kevin O’Leary.

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