Justin Trudeau denies forcing Sikh candidate from nomination race

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau denies his party's nomination process is undemocratic, and said prominent Sikh businessman Barj Dhahan withdrew his bid to be the party's candidate for Vancouver-South willingly despite accusations he was forced out of the race.

Liberal leader says Barj Dhahan withdrew his bid for the Vancouver-South riding nomination willingly

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, centre, attended a ceremony at the Khalsa Diwan Society Sikh Temple before the Vaisakhi parade in Vancouver in April. Trudeau told CBC News he didn't force Barj Dhahan to withdraw his nomination bid. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Federal Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau denies his party's nomination process is undemocratic, and said prominent Sikh businessman Barj Dhahan withdrew his bid to be the party's candidate for Vancouver-South willingly despite accusations he was forced out of the race.

"Barj chose to withdraw from the race and I'm proud of the way the open nominations have been running," Trudeau told Rick Cluff, host of CBC Vancouver's morning radio show The Early Edition.

A number of Sikh Liberals in British Columbia told CBC News they would be leaving the party, saying Trudeau is being "manipulated" by the World Sikh Organization, by choosing the WSO-backed Harjit Singh Sajjan to represent the party in the Vancouver-South riding.

The WSO said in a statement to CBC News that it does not endorse parties or candidates.

Dhahan would not comment on the allegation he was forced out of the race, but told CBC News he withdrew from the nomination process reluctantly.

B.C. businessman Barj Dhahan is a longtime Liberal and was seeking the party's nomination in Vancouver South. He says he reluctantly stepped aside in the race. (barjdhahan.ca)

Trudeau said he isn't worried even though 30 members of the Sikh community told CBC News at least 4,000 members of the community would be tearing up their Liberal Party memberships.

"I wouldn't give too much credence to the people who are complaining very loudly," Trudeau said.

"Because it's so competitive across the country, because there's such a great energy around the Liberal Party, there's an awful lot of people who want to join, who want to become MPs. Unfortunately, when it doesn't work out for someone's favourite candidate, there can be hurt feelings. This is politics." 

The Liberals lost the Vancouver-South riding to Conservative MP Wai Young in 2011, and is one of several ridings the Liberals hope to regain in 2015.

Trudeau said ​Sajjan is a strong candidate to represent the party going forward.

"Harj … is an honest to goodness Canadian hero, a decorated veteran, three tours in Afghanistan and an extraordinary individual who will be a great contributor to our parliamentary scene and our party."

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