Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has defended a Tory candidate in Vancouver under fire for accepting an endorsement from a local Sikh businessman linked to individuals convicted in the Air India bombings.
Harper and the Conservatives also denied Saturday that Ripudaman Singh Malik is involved in the party's local campaign in the riding of Vancouver South against high-profile B.C. Liberal candidate Ujjal Dosanjh.
The denial comes after Dosanjh filed an election complaint on Friday alleging that Conservative candidate Wai Young and Malik are violating election laws by using the publicly funded Khalsa School of British Columbia to mount campaign attacks against him.
But Harper said Saturday that Young has been "very clear" that Malik has no involvement with the campaign.
"She was invited to attend a school, she attended in good faith," Harper told reporters during a campaign rally in Mississauga, Ont. "She and her campaign have no links and do not welcome in any way Mr. Malik into this party."
In a statement earlier Saturday, the Conservatives and Young said they "reject any endorsement from individuals" such as Malik and reiterated previous comments by Harper, who said the India attack was "an act of grotesque violence and malevolence."
The statement also insists Young herself was "unaware" of Malik's background or relationship with the Khalsa School when she was invited to speak there by its principal.
"We also reiterate our clear and unequivocal repudiation of those who would bring their violent, extreme, or hateful prejudices to Canada," the statement said.
"The Conservative Party’s zero tolerance approach to the promotion of terrorism extends to supporters of Khalistani extremism."
Young does not deny going to a meeting at the school where Malik endorsed her.
In her own statement, the candidate said: "Had I known he [Malik] would have been present or was involved with the school I never would have attended. No one involved with this school or Ripudaman Singh Malik is involved in my campaign nor have I ever asked for his support."
But Young, who refused to speak to reporters on the matter on Saturday, has not explained how she didn't know who Malik was, given the publicity surrounding him during the Air India trials — the biggest criminal case in Canadian history — as well as his high-profile lawsuit against the B.C. government, the CBC's Terry Milewski reported.
Admitted to providing financial aid
In March 2005, a B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Malik and co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri in the 1985 bombings of two separate Air India flights that killed a total of 331 people.
Malik has admitted to providing financial assistance to the family of Inderjit Singh Reyat, who was found guilty in 2010 of committing perjury during the trial of Malik and Bagri.
Reyat also served a 10-year sentence after being convicted in 1991 of two counts of manslaughter for making the bomb that exploded in Tokyo and killed the two baggage handlers.
Reyat was sentenced to five years in a separate trial for his role in constructing the bomb that brought down the Air India flight.
Malik was also a close associate of the alleged mastermind of the Air India bombing, Talwinder Parmar. Parmar was killed 15 years ago by the Indian police.