Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

The Liberal candidate running against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a Metro Vancouver byelection has bowed out of the race after singling out Singh’s ethnicity in an online post.

Karen Wang apologized Wednesday for her comments, saying that the diverse character of Burnaby South is a real source of strength.

“In trying to speak about my own story and the importance of people of all different backgrounds getting involved in this important byelection, I made comments online that also referenced Jagmeet Singh’s cultural background,” she said in a statement.

“My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh. I have deep respect for him as the leader of his party and for his public service — and I would never want to diminish that in any way.”

StarMetro Vancouver reported that Wang wrote on Chinese social media platform WeChat that she was the “only” Chinese candidate in the riding, rather than Singh, who she identified as “of Indian descent.”

“If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the byelection, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this byelection is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!” she said, according to the newspaper’s translation.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians open to a Sikh Prime Minister, but three-in-ten aren’t

READ MORE: For NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, the pressure rises as the votes draw closer

She said in her statement Wednesday that she has decided to step aside after speaking with her supporters.

“I believe in the progress that (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are making for British Columbians and all Canadians, and I do not wish for any of my comments to be a distraction in that work,” she said.

In a statement before Wang dropped out, Singh said he intends to represent everyone in the riding regardless of their background.

“We believe everyone brings something to the table and as a community we are better for it,” he said.

“While there are real differences in people’s experiences, I have dedicated much of my work over the years to find the common threads that unite us all. My mother taught me we are all connected and every day I try to live by her words.”

The Liberal Party of Canada said Wang’s online comments are not aligned with the party’s values and it has accepted her resignation. Trudeau and the party have always stood for the full and equal participation of all Canadians in democracy, it said.

“The Liberal Party has a clear commitment to positive politics and support for Canadian diversity, and the same is always expected of our candidates,” it said in a statement.

Elections Canada said the deadline for candidates to enter the byelection race is Feb. 4.

Conservative candidate Jay Shin and People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson are also challenging Singh as he runs for his first seat in the House of Commons.

The 2016 census of the riding shows about 42,000 people identified as ethnically Chinese, while 9,270 people said they were South Asian and 455 of those identified as Punjabi, out of a total population of 111,000 people.

Singh is Sikh and speaks Punjabi, English and French. While campaigning in the riding recently, he greeted people in Croatian and Spanish. He said he had learned to say, “Hello, how are you?” in about 40 different languages.

Wang is the owner of a daycare business and ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 provincial election for the B.C. Liberals. In the Liberal nomination for the federal byelection, Wang defeated biotechnology scientist Cyrus Eduljee after 123 members cast ballots.

Before her resignation, political observers had noted she had deep ties to the riding, unlike Singh who was previously a member of Ontario’s provincial legislature.

On Tuesday night, Wang ran from door to door speaking to several Chinese-Canadian community members in Mandarin. She also chatted with two people of South Asian heritage who promised her their support.

She said she wanted to run in order to give back to her community.

“When I came 20 years ago with my husband … from China, we came with nothing, zero,” she said. “I’m very proud of being a Canadian and I want to do more.”

Sanjay Jeram, a senior political science lecturer at Simon Fraser University, said race is a reality of politics, especially in diverse areas, but Wang’s comments went too far.

“Ultimately, I think the candidates have a responsibility to try to rise above and demonstrate that politics is about representing all the citizens that live in the riding, rather than a particular group, and not trying to play groups against each other.”

He said there have been many examples of parties strategizing to capture voters of a particular ethnicity, including the Conservatives under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

“The fact that she said it out loud — and brought to light something that perhaps most people are wilfully ignorant of — is the issue,” said Jeram.

“Maybe, in some ways, it might be a good thing. It might blow the lid off the fact that this has been happening for some time now.”

— With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Shuswap Middle School requests city’s help in resurfacing sports courts

Total cost estimated at $43,000, school would like 50 per cent contribution

Warm winter clothes wanted for Women Who Wine, Downtown Salmon Arm initiative

Clothing for Community event on Oct. 29 to support Lighthouse Shelter, SAFE Society, CMHA

North-Okanagan Shuswap candidates spending little on Facebook

Social media platform posts what federal parties have paid to advertise

Non-compliant buoys to be removed from Shuswap, Mara lakes

Transport Canada enforcement action to occur Oct. 21 to 25

Coalition talk at Okanagan College candidates forum

Vernon Students’ Association hosts forum to discuss important youth issues, minority government

Competition shakes up for the Okanagan Mixoff

The Okanagan Mixoff takes place Nov. 7 in Kelowna

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

South Okanagan dangerous offender guilty plea struck down

Trial delayed again because Ronald Teneycke failed to elect his choice of trial

Six bears destroyed in three days in West Kelowna

A West Kelowna business has been charged for leaving garbage around Lake Okanagan Resort

West Kelowna Warriors being sold back to BC Hockey League

Current owner Kim Dobranski said the sale back to the BCHL should be completed by the end of October

Police standoff ends peacefully in West Kelowna

A distraught man was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon

Most Read