Politics

Court rules Jim Karahalios should be back in the Conservative leadership race

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled that Jim Karahalios should be reinstated as a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership race, after he was forced from the race over a claim of racism.

Complaint alleging Karahalios made racist remarks got him ejected from the race

Conservative leadership hopeful Jim Karahalios's ejection from the race has been overturned by an Ontario court. (CBC)

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled that Jim Karahalios should be reinstated as a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership race, after he was forced from the race over a claim of racism.

A committee of Conservative Party members kicked Karahalios out of the race in March after leadership candidate and MP Erin O'Toole called for his disqualification.

O'Toole alleged Karahalios made what the court documents call "racist Islamophobic remarks that besmirched the expressed principles of the Conservative Party" in reference to O'Toole's campaign chair, Walied Soliman.

Karahalios suggested that Soliman was a supporter of Sharia law, based on comments Soliman had made about Sharia financing.

Karahalios strenuously denies being a racist, the court ruling notes, and argues he was ousted from the race because he was "a thorn in the side of the Conservative Party."

'Litigation is not an MMA match'

Justice Paul Perell found that there was nothing to support Karahalios's claim the party is out to get him. He did conclude, however, that the four-person committee that ousted Karahalios from the race didn't have the authority to do so.

Watch: Karahalios on today's court decision:

Jim Karahalios called the court's ruling 'an important decision for the rule of law.' 13:28

"Litigation is not an MMA match where one calls out his opponent and dares him or her to enter the courtroom. The Conservative Party was astute to appreciate that Mr. Karahalios had not shown a foundation for his allegations of impropriety," wrote Perell.

It's now up to the party's Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) to consider whether Karahalios should be a candidate, if it is inclined to do so, he added.

In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, Karahalios called the court's ruling "an important decision for the rule of law."

Karahalios needs to raise $100,000 in two weeks

Challenges remain for Karahalios. He still has to raise $100,000 over the next 14 days to stay in the race — to cover the fines and obligations imposed on him over his comments about Soliman.

He was ordered to pay $50,000 dollars of his compliance deposit as a fine for his statements about Soliman. The party's chief returning officer also ruled that, "to ensure future compliance," Karahalios would have to put down a bigger deposit than other candidates.

In a statement issued today, Karahalios indicated he's preparing to get back in the race.

"I am currently reviewing the court's ruling to assess how I can best re-enter the race in a competitive manner," the statement reads.

But he told Power & Politics that he's at a disadvantage in fundraising because the party hadn't picked up donations he had mailed in, and hasn't opened its online portal to allow him to gather donations.

Candidates can have donations to their campaigns mailed directly to the Conservative Fund to ensure they comply with the Elections Act. Court documents say Karahalios directed somewhere between $21,000 and $33,000 in donations to the fund which haven't been picked up because of pandemic public health restrictions.

"Unless we've got the party willing to play ball here and run a fair race and accept donations for my campaign, I physically don't have a way right now to collect donations to send to them for the extra $100,000," he told host Vassy Kapelos.

The party will hold a mail-in vote to choose its next leader. The deadline for the vote is Aug 21, but the results will be announced only when the ballots can be properly processed and examined while respecting any pandemic health guidelines in place at that time.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Conservative Party noted the court's decision found no bad faith on the part of the CPC or any of its officials.

The statement says the party plans to review the court's decision and will implement its guidance as quickly as possible.

"We're looking forward to a competitive race ahead, and giving Canadians the opportunity to hear from our candidates," it reads.

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