British Columbia·Updated

B.C. premier apologizes for plan to win ethnic vote

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has apologized for the language used in the Liberals' "Multicultural Strategy" document leaked on Wednesday.

Official apology offered during question period

B.C. premier apologizes for ethnic plan

10 years ago
Duration 2:22
Christy Clark apologizes after her party's plan to attract ethnic voters was leaked

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has apologized for the language used in the Liberals' "Multicultural Strategy" document leaked on Wednesday.

MLA Rich Coleman, the province's Minister of Energy and Mines, read her official apology during question period in the provincial Legislature on Thursday.

"l have now had the opportunity to read the draft outreach document and I want to sincerely apologize to British Columbians," the statement read.

"The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach and it is unacceptable. The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate."

Clark said she has asked her deputy minister to conduct a review to ensure that no government resources were inappropriately used.

"Every community in British Columbia contributes to the rich diversity of our province and the very fabric of who we are. We need to embrace and respect that fact," the statement went on.

The leaked documents were sent from the e-mail account of B.C. Premier Christy Clark's Deputy Chief of Staff last January. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"As a government, we have a responsibility to reach out to every community to ensure they are engaged and understand the services that are available to them."

The documents leaked by the NDP were originally sent from the e-mail address of  a senior official in the premier's office in January last year.

They reveal a wide-ranging plan to win ethnic votes in the upcoming provincial election and outline a proposed outreach plan involving the premier's office, the Multiculturalism Ministry, the government caucus and the B.C. Liberal Party.

Outrage over "multicultural strategy"

On Thursday, Liberal MLA Kash Heed lashed out at his own party, saying those responsible should be fired.

"If you're truly reaching out wanting to assist these communities and you're truly apologetic, do it from the heart, not for a check mark on the ballot come election day."

Long-time social activist and CEO of Progressive Intercultural Community Services Charan Gill said the strategy set out in the documents would backfire.

"I think it’s too late," he said. "It won’t work."

Gill, who has also been an NDP candidate, isn’t surprised the Liberals have worked up a strategy to appeal to an important demographic just before an election.

Gill says unlike the NDP, the Liberals have never really given MLAs from ethnic communities the powerful profile that goes with senior cabinet posts. 

"They won’t be able to resonate with ethnic communities because people know that anybody who went with the Liberals from the Indian community has been dismantled one way or the other," Gill said.

The leaked document also calls on the B.C. government to "correct historical wrongs" within ethnic communities, like apologizing for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, which saw a ship carrying 356 passengers forced to return to India after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour.

But Gill says voters will see past those pre-election gestures.

'Reaching out to communities'

Meanwhile, NDP House Leader John Horgan says building support in ethnic communities is laudable for all governments, but the documents indicate election-related planning was to be conducted by taxpayer-funded workers, some working out of the premier's office.

"No one has any dispute about the rich multicultural heritage in B.C. and the obligation of government to celebrate that and to build upon various communities in every corner of the province," said Horgan.

"What we object to, and I think every British Columbian would object to, is their tax dollars being used to prop up the B.C. Liberal election machinery."

Multiculturalism Minister John Yap, appointed in September 2012, says the plan is more than a year old and does not completely portray the government's plans for engaging with ethnic communities.

"Since coming into the role as minister responsible for multiculturalism, we're reaching out to communities and not following through on some of the ideas that were listed," he said.

Vote Compass B.C.

CBC News is partnering with Vote Compass for the B.C. provincial election this spring and we want to know which issues matter to you.

With files from The Canadian Press