Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he would stand by candidates who have made mistakes in the past, as long as they apologize and take responsibility for them now.
“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they said, and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to any one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that,” he said.
“I accept the fact that people can make mistakes in the past and can own up to that and accept that.”
Scheer made the remarks to reporters during an overnight flight to Vancouver on Sunday.
Since the writ was issued on Wednesday, Scheer has fired one candidate for expressing racist viewpoints via secret social media accounts, and has stood behind four others who have faced scrutiny for their actions.
Provincial election resignation
Ghada Melek was denied a chance to run for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2018 Ontario provincial election after sharing homophobic, transphobic and anti-Muslim posts on social media.
She is, however, currently the Conservative candidate for Mississauga—Streetsville.
When asked whether the party knew about Melek’s provincial bid, Scheer said Melek had “accepted responsibility,” addressed the comments and “expressed regret for some of the things that she shared.”
“We’re going to move on and continue to focus on things that matter to people in her riding,” he said.
Videos on Twitter
On Saturday, former Liberal cabinet ministers Maryam Monsef and Melanie Joly shared videos on Twitter of Conservative candidate for Kanata—Carleton Justina McCaffrey.
In the first video, from a year ago, McCaffrey tells a reporter she was bothered by Justin Trudeau’s “preoccupation with the French, for example, the Quebec people.” In the second video, McCaffrey appears to be pitching a reality TV show with far-right political activist Faith Goldy.
— David Akin 🇨🇦 (@davidakin) September 14, 2019
On Saturday McCaffrey posted a statement to Twitter, saying she “respects both official languages,” and regrets her “poor choice of words.”
My statement: pic.twitter.com/clfhCD4l3n
— Justina McCaffrey (@JustinaCPC) September 14, 2019
In a statement issued by the Conservative party, McCaffrey said the video with Goldy was from 2013, and that she hasn’t seen Goldy “in several years.”
When asked on Sunday about Goldy, Scheer said she has said and done things he finds “intolerant” and said he has “made it clear” he won’t have anything to do with her.
“What’s important for me today is that Ms. McCaffrey has addressed that and has taken responsibility for it.”
Candidates under fire
On Thursday, Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennet released a video of Conservative candidate for York Centre, Rachel Willson, wherein she discusses her desire to end abortion via “pro-life legislation.”
However, speaking at a campaign stop, Scheer said he has made it “very clear” that he would not support reopening the issue.
On Friday, Liberal candidate for Brampton North Ruby Sahota posted a tweet of a Facebook comment from 2010 in which her Conservative rival, Arpan Khanna, offhandedly used a homophobic slur, apparently to tease a friend.
In a statement sent to the Canadian Press by a Conservative party spokesman, Khanna apologized “unequivocally.”
When asked by reporters on Sunday whether he was concerned about his party’s vetting process, Scheer said he is “very confident” with the scrutiny his candidates were put through and that the unearthing of such material was an attempt by the Liberals to “distract Canadians from their own scandals.”
The Conservatives, however, are not the only party whose candidates have come under scrutiny.
On Thursday, the Green party candidate for Simcoe-North, Erik Schomann, resigned after coming under fire for a 2007 Facebook post in which he appeared to suggest he wanted to mail pieces of a pig carcass to Muslims.
In a statement to Global News, the Green party said it has “zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind,” and that the party had accepted Schomann’s resignation.
Hassan Guillet was dumped by the Liberal party as a candidate in Quebec before the writ was issued after a Jewish human rights group accused him of making a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.
The Liberal party said in a statement that Guillet’s “insensitive comments” don’t align with the party’s values and revoked his candidacy.
However, Guillet said at a press conference that the party had been aware of the contents of his Facebook page since at least Aug. 8.
In a response to a request for comment by Global News on Sunday, the Liberal party said it “strongly condemns all forms of discrimination, and the same is always expected of our candidates.”
“The party either knew or should have known what it contained. Why, then, if these words were so problematic, why was my candidacy … accepted?” he said. “One is entitled to ask the question, was it incompetence or bad faith?
“I am not anti-Semitic. On the contrary, I campaigned and I will always campaign against all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
On Wednesday, Olivier Mathieu, the NDP candidate for Lasalle-Emard-Verdun, resigned over allegations of domestic abuse. Mathieu denied the accusations but said he was withdrawing to avoid becoming a distraction.
More than an apology
Speaking at an event in Quebec on Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the decision to allow a candidate who has made a mistake to run for the party is about more than an apology.
“There has to be a commitment that they’ve changed, that they’re willing to do things differently,” he said.
“So if someone has had very hurtful beliefs or comments in the past, but has committed to apologizing and to changing and is committing that moving forward they’re going to do things differently, then I think that we should be open to people who are willing to change.
“I believe that people can change and improve and I think that we should be open to that.”
Global News reached out to the Liberal party and the Green party for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.
—With files from Amanda Connolly and The Associated Press
- Global News