Federal Liberal candidate Karen Wang resigns following criticisms about WeChat post singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Federal Liberal candidate Karen Wang resigns following criticisms about WeChat post singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

VANCOUVER—The federal Liberal candidate up against NDP Jagmeet Singh has resigned following a Star Vancouver report on comments she made on the Chinese social media app, WeChat, underlining the race of both her and Singh in a plea to voters.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, Wang said she has been proud to call Burnaby South her home since arriving in Canada as a newcomer 20 years ago. Wang said she had deep respect for the party leader.

“I made comments online that also referenced Jagmeet Singh’s cultural background. My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh,” the statement read.

“After consideration with my supporters, I have decided to step aside as the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South by-election. I believe in the progress that 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.”

On Saturday, Wang used WeChat to urge supporters to vote for her, “the only Chinese candidate” in the riding, rather than NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who she identified as “of Indian descent.” Singh, who is vying for his first seat in the House of Commons, is Canada’s first non-white federal party leader. The other candidates are Conservative Jay Shin and People’s Party of Canada’s Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson.

Translated from Chinese, part of Wang’s post read: “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!”

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Liberal candidate’s WeChat post draws criticism for singling out race of byelection opponent Jagmeet Singh

Wang used the term “hua yi” to refer to people of the Chinese diaspora and used the term “yin yi” to refer to people of India’s diaspora.

On Tuesday, Wang had said in a statement to StarMetro: “The intent was to stress the importance of people of all different backgrounds getting involved in this important byelection,” it read. “The phrasing should have been different and it will be taken down.”

According to a statement released by Braeden Caley, the senior director of communications at the Liberal Party of Canada, recent online comments by Wang are not aligned with the values of the party.

“The Liberal Party has accepted her resignation as the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South byelection,” he said in a statement. “Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have always stood for the full and equal participation of all Canadians in our democracy, regardless of their background. The Liberal Party has a clear commitment to positive politics and support for Canadian diversity, and the same is always expected of our candidates.”

Asked whether the Liberals would nominate a new candidate in the riding, Caley said: “We’ll have more to discuss on that in due course.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined comment and referred questions about Wang to the Liberal Party.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen called Wang’s social media post “the worst kind of politics there is.” He said her comment about Singh’s ethnicity comes after the Conservative candidate in Burnaby South, Jay Shin, disparaged the NDP Leader for his past as a criminal defence lawyer.

“It’s brutal,” Cullen said. “It should be a warning to the Liberals and Conservatives that this stuff can’t come out in the general election.”

Cullen added that Trudeau’s silence on Wang’s post is “troubling” and pointed out that “she resigned; he didn’t fire her.”

“I’m trying to imagine if a Conservative candidate had said this, how Mr. Trudeau would have been on the front page of your paper, saying we’ve got to unite, not divide,” he said.

“They screened and vetted her and it took her quitting to end instead of Mr. Trudeau being a little bit more courageous in his leadership.”

With files from Jeremy Nuttall and Joanna Chiu.

Melanie Green is a Vancouver-based reporter covering food, culture and policy. Follow her on Twitter: @mdgmedia.

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