UManitoba student union candidate regrets offensive tweets
Students' union candidate remorseful after problematic comments surface online
A candidate running in the current University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) elections says he regrets making controversial comments on social media four years ago and that they don’t reflect the young man he is today.
The statement comes on the heels of an anonymous blog entry published Sunday, with images Bélanger posted on Instagram that contain a reference to "arian [sic] pride" under a photo of a Mercedes Benz, a German company. The blog also republished sexist comments of an explicit nature from Bélanger's Twitter account that were tweeted in 2012 and 2013.
Hannah James, a student at the U of M, said she saw the blog post surface on social media.
“I was pretty appalled by the content,” said James, who shared the post from her Facebook account.
Bélanger reached out to James personally after she shared the post.
On behalf of the campaign, if anyone finds that offensive, I sincerely apologize on behalf of the candidates- Tanjit Nagra, Your UMSU slate organizer
"It's very important that he be held accountable and show us that if he has changed, that he is making consistent changes to show that he values diversity on campus and inclusiveness and equality," said James.
"I hope he has changed, and I hope that is true."
Comments 'Do not reflect my views': Bélanger
Bélanger is part of the “Your UMSU” slate in this year’s student union election and is running for the position of vice-president internal.
As a teen, Bélanger said he didn’t understand “the true meaning” of the statements. In the release, he said that he has matured since then and now grasps the hurtful nature of his remarks.
Bélanger said that prior to throwing his hat into the ring for student politics, he enrolled in LGBTTQ* ally training and other inclusivity courses.
“These opportunities opened my eyes to the way my behaviour was oppressive and demeaning,” said Bélanger. “They have helped me to re-evaluate my actions and behaviours. I can strongly say that these comments do not reflect my views or values.”
Bélanger said he is committed to the student body.
“I have the utmost respect for all students and will continue to work hard to provide them with a student experience that they can be proud of."
Tanjit Nagra, an organizer on the Your UMSU slate, said Bélanger is making himself available to speak with any students who are concerned with his remarks.
"On behalf of the campaign, if anyone finds that offensive, I sincerely apologize on behalf of the candidates," said Nagra.
Nagra said the blog has published several negative entries about the Your UMSU slate. They are in the process of filing a complaint with the chief returning officer, a figure who monitors the election campaigns of rival slates.
Voting in the UMSU elections wraps up Friday.
Belanger declined speaking to CBC News on camera, but apologized for his remarks in the written statement below.