Kellie Leitch, an apparent frontrunner in the Conservative Party’s leadership race who was thrilled by Donald Trump’s presidential victory, is ramping up her controversial campaign rhetoric but rejecting a stamp of approval from a known so-called “alt-right” group in Canada.
On Friday, the Council of European Canadians published an article urging its followers to give her a chance. It seems to be one of the first times an overtly “alt-right” group — also known as people who espouse anti-immigrant, white nationalist ideology — has endorsed a candidate in this race.
Most don’t support any mainstream Canadian political party.
The post’s author Frank Hilliard, a writer known for white nationalist and xenophobic views, outlined how “all the hounds are pointing at Kellie Leitch … [T]hey hate her because she has called for screening all visitors, refugees and immigrants for Canadian Values.”
“Why is that a bad thing you ask? Because it would effectively eliminate believers in Islam who, according to the Koran, do not believe in Canadian civic, legal, or moral values.”
Hilliard concludes by telling the audience that “as long as the Left is attacking her, as long as she’s being vilified by Progressives, we know she’s on the right track.”
“For this, for now, she deserves our support,” he states.
Leitch, in a statement provided to VICE News by her communications team, rejected the endorsement.
“I’ve never heard of this organization. I did not seek their endorsement. I do not want their endorsement,” Leitch said. “To think my campaign is in any way based on ethnic nationalism is to be willfully ignorant of what my campaign is about.”
Leitch added that her campaign is about “civic values, not ethnic ones.”
Her response came on the heels of her latest scathing Facebook post from Monday morning targeting “the Liberal elite” in an attempt to flip the criticisms she has received that her campaign is rooted in racism and dog-whistle tactics.
Leitch’s hallmark campaign promise is to implement a screening process for all newcomers to Canada that would force them to prove they believe in “Canadian values,” though she has refused to say exactly how it would work.
“If you are not a Liberal elite, apparently you are a racist. Specifically, you are anti-Muslim but you’re not picky. Frankly, you will hate anything that’s different. That’s what the Liberal elite thinks of you,” she wrote. “That’s what your Prime Minister [Justin Trudeau] thinks of you.”
That Facebook post comes a week after she made headlines for a succession of animated posts including the launch of her “revenge of the comments section” fundraising campaign, which seemingly appeals to online trolls for donations.
“Are you tired of being ignored or mocked by the Liberal and media elites? If you are, join the revenge of the comment section!” she wrote to her followers last Wednesday morning, adding that the campaign will “help expose this incredible bias” from the “Liberal and media elites,” both of which are amorphous entities Trump also continues to decry.
She boasted that her “revenge of the comment section” fundraiser raised over $35,000 in 24 hours.
A day later, Leitch vowed she would make it legal for Canadians to possess pepper spray and mace for “self-defence” purposes — a proposal that was slammed by the federal minister for the status of women as “unrealistic and offensive to women across this country.”
This story has been updated to include a response from Kellie Leitch and to describe in greater detail the views of Frank Hilliard, of the Council of European Canadians.