Windsor·Updated

Ontario PPC candidate published racist, transphobic tweets

The People's Party of Canada candidate for the Essex riding responded to racist and transphobic posts published on his Twitter account earlier this spring, saying "I apologize for any remarks I made that were taken out of context and may have offended anyone."

'Yellow people been working since 5am, black people up at noon' says one post by Essex candidate

Bill Capes is the People's Party of Canada candidate for Essex. (People's Party Website)

The People's Party of Canada candidate for the Essex riding responded to racist and transphobic posts published on his Twitter account earlier this spring, saying "I apologize for any remarks I made that were taken out of context and may have offended anyone."

In one of the tweets, published in March of this year, Bill Capes said "Yellow people been working since 5am, black people up at noon. Lol."

Capes initially denied the tweets, saying it was possible someone might have hacked his account. 

"I work with so many different people here," said Capes. "There's no way I would make ... no way I would stand beside a statement like that."

Capes later confirmed the existence of the tweets in a separate interview with CBC News.

Essex PPC candidate Bill Capes posted this tweet on March 22, 2019. (Bill Capes/Twitter)

"I looked back through my old files and I did the see the tweet," Capes said. "I understand the context that was there."

Capes did not provide details regarding the context of the tweets. 

This tweet, posted in March of 2019, is part of a conversation about gender identity. (Bill Capes/Twitter)

Other tweets made reference to "Mother Nature" ruling on gender identity, a Somalian janitor with "no language" and being a "proud white dude hiding in plain sight in a hijab."

Executive director of WETrans Support Jayce Carver said she doesn't understand why cisgender people care so much about how transgender people identify themselves.

"I'm exhausted by [this]," said Carver. "Transgender continually have to defend who we are, as people. Being trans doesn't affect cisgender people, other than having to learn a couple new pronouns."

Carver said she wishes cisgender people would come at the topic with more empathy. 

This tweet, also posted March of 2019, is part of a conversation about white people wearing hijabs. (Bill Capes/Twitter)

"Any conversation, good or bad, I think we can learn a lot from the dialogue," said Carver. "Sometimes it takes comments like this [tweet] to start the conversation."

Capes said he doesn't agree with racism in "any way, shape or form."

"I will defend anyone of a different race than myself that's reflected by a cheap stereotype," he said. "That's not right. That's the cheapest form of racism. I disagree with it 100 per cent."

This tweet, also posted March of 2019, is part of a conversation about U.S. President Donald Trump.

Capes is not the first local candidate to admit to making discriminatory comments.

Windsor West Green Party candidate Quinn Hunt previously apologized for having "said and done racist, sexist and homophobic things."

CBC News has reached out to People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, but has yet to receive comment.

'Essex is a place where everyone is welcome'

Of the Essex riding candidates contacted by CBC News, only NDP candidate Tracey Ramsey and Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga responded for comment. 

Ramsey said the tweets published by Capes were "extremely hurtful and quite honestly, this type of rhetoric has no place here in Essex."

"I was very shocked. I was shocked to see the racism. I was shocked to see the other tweets referring to gender," said Ramsey. "Essex is a place where everyone is welcome and that's regardless of your skin colour, your place of origin, if you're part of the LGBTQ community, women, and to see these tweets coming from someone who's trying to seek office out in Essex is very hurtful to a lot of folks."

(Tracey Ramsey Campaign)

Ramsey said she chose to comment on Capes's tweets because she will "never shy away from standing up for people in Essex and people who already experience this on a daily basis."

Festeryga said the tweets "made [her] skin crawl. 

"I was quite disgusted. There's no place in 2019 for comments like that. That's outrageous," she said. 

(Audrey Festeryga Campaign)

Festeryga added that comments like those posts by Capes concern her greatly. 

"If you take a look, you see a lot of that kind of rhetoric coming from the conservative parties," she said. "In general, there's a lot of very negative information that's being put forward, whether it's about immigration and refugees, whether it's about the LGBTQ community, there's just a lot of very, very negative information coming out and there's no place for that in Canadian politics."

Festeryga said that Capes should "consider resigning, given what he's put out there."

'Won't be getting my vote,' says resident

Candidates weren't the only people to weigh in on Capes's tweets. 

Residents from the riding, including Karren Goetz, offered their input. 

Goetz said Capes "probably won't be getting my vote," adding that she didn't really consider voting for the People's Party to begin with. 

Krista Brenko described the tweets as "pretty aggressive."

"I wouldn't vote for him," said Brenko. "That's definitely not a winner."

'Don't see a whole lot of support for this party,' says political scientist

For her part, University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan said the tweets are a sign that the People's Party likely doesn't extensively vet their candidates in the same way that other campaigns do. 

"Obviously these are something that were in the public record and it's a bit surprising that it took even this long for them to become more public," she said. 

Miljan said based on solely on polls, it seems unlikely that the PPC will resonate strongly with voters. 

(Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"Moving forward, I just don't see a whole lot of support for this party," she said. "I just don't think that they're going to make it in the long run."

At the same time, Miljan said Essex's status as a riding which went to Ramsey and the NDP in the last election is an indicator that Capes's posts likely won't make a difference for his campaign.

"He was never in contention," she said, adding that Ramsey's biggest challengers are the riding's Conservative and Liberal candidates. "I'm not sure there's necessarily a three-way race … I think the Liberals are in distant third, but it's certainly between the NDP and the Conservatives."

With files from Amy Dodge and Angelica Haggert

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