The NDP candidate in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands released a statement Sunday saying he made a "serious error in judgment" by taking off his clothes in front of teenagers at an environmental retreat in 1996.

Julian West said that beyond removing his clothes several times to go skinny-dipping, nothing inappropriate occurred.

A contemporary report from the Victoria Times Colonist, posted on Maclean's website, said the RCMP investigated, but concluded it was inappropriate behaviour, not a criminal matter.

No charges were laid.

The article quoted an RCMP officer saying: "None of the kids or parents came forward to register a complaint."

West, 43, said he released the statement because his political opponents made the incident public.

NDP Leader Jack Layton is standing by West, who was once a member of the Green party.

"We welcome people who have advanced ideas on issues relevant to the environment," Layton said while campaigning in Gatineau, Que.

"I could point to Gerry Ritz," Layton said. "I mean here's a guy who's in charge of our food security, and we've got the biggest food-security crisis that Canada has seen. And he's joking about it.

"I think that's a serious issue of credulity. I can understand why other parties would try to divert attention to that." The New Democrats have already lost two candidates in B.C. after videos appeared on the internet of them smoking marijuana.