Politics

Derek Sloan ignores calls to apologize for attack on Canada's top doctor

A Conservative MP and party leadership candidate who has come under fire from his own caucus colleagues over an attack on Canada's chief public health officer defended his comments in a statement Wednesday, saying he was not suggesting Dr. Theresa Tam is disloyal to Canada.

Conservative leadership candidate said he doesn't question Tam's loyalty to Canada but wants her to step down

Conservative MP and leadership candidate Derek Sloan is in hot water with his caucus colleagues over his verbal attack on Dr. Theresa Tam. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A Conservative MP and party leadership candidate who has come under fire from his own caucus colleagues over an attack on Canada's chief public health officer defended his comments in a statement Wednesday, saying he was not suggesting Dr. Theresa Tam is disloyal to Canada.

But Derek Sloan did not apologize for his harsh criticism of Tam and how she and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have handled the COVID-19 crisis.

Last week, he posted a message and video on Facebook and Twitter claiming Tam had "failed Canadians" through her performance during the pandemic and asking if she works "for Canada or for China."

"Dr. Tam must go! Canada must remain sovereign over decisions," Sloan continued. "The UN, the WHO and Chinese Communist propaganda must never again have a say over Canada's public health!"

A conference call today between members of the Conservative Party's Ontario caucus on the subject of Sloan's comments was described by sources as "very heated." The MPs pressed Sloan to apologize for questioning Tam's loyalty.

Ontario MP Scott Reid put a motion forward for a vote by Ontario MPs calling on Sloan to apologize. According to sources, the only MPs to vote against the motion were Sloan himself and his fellow leadership candidate Erin O'Toole.

Sloan spoke during the call. Sources said that, rather than apologize for his words, the MP claimed that asking if Tam worked for China was meant to be "rhetorical".

Sloan ran with that explanation in his statement earlier today.

"The question regarding whether she works 'for Canada' or 'for China' was a rhetorical question. Sure, I could have just as easily asked, does she work 'for Canada' or 'for the World Health Organization,'" said Sloan in his statement. 

"Obviously, Dr. Tam is employed by Canada, and not China. While she is strongly affiliated with the World Health Organization, she is clearly employed by Canada, not the WHO."

Sloan said that he doesn't question Tam's "intentions" and believes "she wants what she thinks is best for Canada." The MP said he is questioning not her loyalty but the value of her advice.

"I remain greatly concerned that Dr. Theresa Tam still holds the position of chief public health officer of Canada," he said. "With such a disastrous work track record, I once again call for her to step down immediately."

Delayed condemnation

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer initially refused to comment on Sloan's remarks, despite being given several opportunities. 

Scheer, however, has raised concerns about the WHO's track record during the pandemic and its relationship with the communist regime in China, but directed his criticism of Canada's response to the pandemic at the Liberal government rather than Tam herself.

"We've got serious concerns about the accuracy of the information coming out of the WHO and it's incumbent upon this government to explain why they have based so many of their decisions on the WHO," Scheer said earlier this month.

But earlier this week Scheer changed track, saying on Monday that Sloan's comments were "not the positions of myself nor this caucus" and that it is not "acceptable to question people's loyalty to Canada."

Other Conservative MPs were quicker to criticize Sloan, including Alberta's Michelle Rempel who said his remarks were "profoundly wrong," Edmonton's Tim Uppal who called them "unacceptable," and Ontario's Eric Duncan who said he would never question Tam's "loyalty to Canada."

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