ICYMI: Fact check on Kellie Leitch’s ‘values check’

Good analysis by Joan Bryden of the complications in assessing values:

Conservative leadership contender Kellie Leitch has sparked a fire storm with her suggestion that prospective immigrants should be vetted for “anti-Canadian values.”

Among the values she says should be unwelcome are “intolerance towards other religions, cultures and sexual orientations, violent and/or misogynist behaviour and/or a lack of acceptance of our Canadian tradition of personal and economic freedoms.”

Leitch has not spelled out how her proposed screening process would work but she has dismissed the concerns of leadership rivals and others who have argued the scheme is unacceptable, unnecessary and unworkable. She has said it’s akin to conducting security checks and just a matter of asking would-be newcomers some “simple questions.”

But immigration experts say merely asking simple questions would be meaningless; prospective immigrants would quickly learn to give the “correct” answers but not necessarily honest ones.

To attempt to do such screening seriously would cost a fortune and require hiring thousands of professional interviewers trained to detect applicants who weren’t being truthful about their real values, experts warn. And even that, they say, would probably be ineffective.

The Facts

Currently, prospective immigrants undergo security and criminal checks. There are numerous reasons a person may be found inadmissible, including if the individual:

  • is considered a security risk. That includes involvement in espionage, violence or terrorism, attempts to overthrow a government and membership in an organization that is involved in any of those things.
  • has committed human or international rights violations, including committing war crimes or having been a senior official in a government that has engaged in gross human rights violations.
  • has been convicted of a crime or committed an act that would be a crime in Canada.
  • has ties to organized crime.
  • has a serious health or financial problem.
  • lied on the application form or in an interview with an immigration officer.

The Experts

So how could Canada go about weeding out would-be immigrants who hold “anti-Canadian values?”

Contrary to Leitch’s assertion, it couldn’t be a matter of asking individuals a series of simple questions — like “Do you support gender equality?” — says Monica Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Immigration, Inequality and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

Asking such questions, to which the socially acceptable answer is evident, “is going to get you what I call the motherhood responses,” she says.

…A serious attempt to explore a person’s values would have to take a more sophisticated approach, asking multiple, subtle questions that can be analysed by professionals to elicit a truer picture of an individual’s real attitudes. And that, Boyd says, “moves us into a set of screening that no nation state has adopted because it’s so bloody expensive you can’t even get near it.”

Bellissimo says any serious attempt to detect who is telling the truth about their values would require hiring thousands of highly-trained interviewers.

“I couldn’t imagine the cost, the training, what would be involved and, again, to what end?”

Even were Canada prepared to foot the bill, Boyd predicts schools would pop up abroad to teach would-be migrants how to pass the Canadian values test.

“In any kind of these values tests, if the incentive is strong enough, people learn to lie,” she says.

And even were it possible to verify the truthfulness of a person’s answers, Vancouver immigration lawyer Zool Suleman says that ignores the fact that values evolve over time, rendering the whole exercise meaningless.

“Values are not a water-tight container,” he says. “They evolve and, in fact, one would hope that by being in Canada people’s values would lean towards what we would call the mean or the centre in Canada, which embraces our Constitution, embraces our engagement with law enforcement and also societal norms.”

The Verdict

Leitch’s claim that screening prospective immigrants for anti-Canadian values would be akin to security screening and a matter of asking some simple questions doesn’t hold up. There is no way to document or check with international authorities about peoples’ values and simply asking them won’t produce useful answers. For this reason, her claim is “full of baloney.”

Source: Fact check on Kellie Leitch’s ‘values check’ – Macleans.ca

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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