Politics

Trudeau won't remove Liberal candidate for racist, sexist social media posts

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says comments made by a Liberal candidate in Nova Scotia in old social media posts are unacceptable, but that he is not removing him as a candidate.

Jaime Battiste apologized for his comments in a statement released by the party

Jaime Battiste is the Liberal candidate in Sydney-Victoria. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says comments made by a Liberal candidate in Nova Scotia in old social media posts are unacceptable, but that he is not removing him as a candidate.

Jaime Battiste, who is running for the Liberals in the riding of Sydney-Victoria, issued an apology earlier this week after the Toronto Sun shared past racist and sexist remarks he had made on social media.

One 2012 tweet from Battiste said, "Why do I assume every skinny aboriginal girl is on crystal meth or pills?" 

Battiste told the newspaper that the posts were crude jokes he made at a different time in his life, but he now realizes they were offensive.

During a campaign event in Plainfield, Ont., this morning, Trudeau said Battiste has taken responsibility for his actions and apologized.

Trudeau called the language in the posts unacceptable, but said he is pleased Battiste has apologized unreservedly.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is asked if he feels like he can't remove a candidate for past racist and sexist remarks due to his own personal history with blackface. 0:33

Trudeau sidestepped a question about whether he feels limited in his ability to censure candidates for past behaviour after photos and a video emerged in the first week of the campaign showing the Liberal leader in blackface.

Conservatives criticize 'fake feminist'

In a statement, Lisa Raitt, the Conservative candidate for Milton, Ont., called Trudeau "a fake feminist" for allowing Battiste to stand as a Liberal candidate.

The Conservative candidate in Sydney-Victoria, Eddie Orrell, said he doesn't know Battiste personally, so he can't say whether the Liberal candidate has changed since the tweets were made.

"You know, it was a real shock to me to see that written after the (local candidates) debate the night before. I thought we had a good debate."

"I was surprised to see (the tweets) came out this late in the campaign. I would expect that if something like that would have happened, it probably would have come out a lot earlier," Orrell said.

But Orrell says the controversy doesn't change anything for his campaign.

"We have our own campaign to run and I've never looked at anyone else's campaign to find out what they were doing and if we would change ours different. We had a plan from the start and we're going to stick to that plan."

The NDP candidate in Sydney-Victoria, Jodi McDavid, declined to comment.

CBC News previously requested an interview with Battiste, but the Liberal Party declined the request. It instead sent out a statement via email attributed to him.

"I would like to apologize for my comments," he said. "At times in my life, I have made crude jokes that I thought were funny at the time, but I realize now that these words were offensive.

"These were things I said during difficult times in my life, and they are not a reflection of my beliefs or who I am today. I apologize unreservedly."

Susan Farrell, Battiste's campaign manager and president of the Sydney-Victoria Liberal Association, declined to comment, but said Battiste will continue to campaign Monday. She said Battiste was at home Sunday in Eskasoni First Nation with his family.

With files from CBC News

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