Liberal candidate bows out of Burnaby byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Laura Kane - The Canadian Press

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The Liberal candidate running against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the Burnaby byelection has bowed out of the race after singling out Singh’s ethnicity in an online post.

karen wang liberal burnaby
Liberal Karen Wang has dropped out of the Burnaby South byelection. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier/Burnaby Now.

Karen Wang apologized on Wednesday for the comments, saying that the diverse character of Burnaby South is a real source of strength.

“In trying to speak about my own story and the importance of people of all different backgrounds getting involved in this important byelection, I made comments online that also referenced Jagmeet Singh’s cultural background,” she said in a statement.

“My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh. I have deep respect for him as the leader of his party and for his public service — and I would never want to diminish that in any way.”

StarMetro Vancouver reported that Wang wrote on Chinese social media platform WeChat that she was the “only” Chinese candidate in the riding, rather than Singh, who she identified as “of Indian descent.”

She said after consideration with her supporters, she has decided to step aside as the Liberal candidate in the byelection.

“I believe in the progress that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are making for British Columbians and all Canadians, and I do not wish for any of my comments to be a distraction in that work,” she said.

Singh said in a statement on Wednesday, before Wang dropped out, that he intends to represent everyone in the riding regardless of their background.

“We believe everyone brings something to the table and as a community we are better for it,” he said.

“While there are real differences in people’s experiences, I have dedicated much of my work over the years to find the common threads that unite us all. My mother taught me we are all connected and every day I try to live by her words.”

The Liberal Party of Canada released a statement saying Wang’s online comments are not aligned with the party’s values and it has accepted her resignation.

“Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have always stood for the full and equal participation of all Canadians in our democracy, regardless of their background. The Liberal Party has a clear commitment to positive politics and support for Canadian diversity, and the same is always expected of our candidates,” it said.

Elections Canada said the deadline for candidates to enter the byelection race is Feb. 4.

Conservative candidate Jay Shin and People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson are also challenging Singh as he runs for his first seat in the House of Commons.

The 2016 census of the riding shows about 42,000 people identified as ethnically Chinese, while 9,270 people  said they were South Asian and another 455 identified as Punjabi, out of a total population of 111,000 people.

Singh is Sikh and speaks Punjabi.

Wang is the owner of a daycare business and ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 provincial election for the B.C. Liberals.

In the Liberal nomination for the byelection, Wang defeated biotechnology scientist Cyrus Eduljee, after 123 members cast ballots at a nomination meeting last month.

— With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa