Disappointing. That was the term used by many in describing a social media post that’s being widely panned.
Earlier this week, a post was put on the Okanagan Conservatives’ Facebook page. The post said “This is what happens when you have a cabinet based on affirmative action” and linked a story to the Ottawa Citizen that featured a photo of federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. The story chronicled a 2017 Canadian Forces flight to Europe.
On Thursday, several politicians criticized the post, including Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr, who said the post came across as racist. On Twitter, Fuhr said “I am not OK with what this implies. You are an “Okanagan Conservative @DanAlbas are you?”
WATCH BELOW: A post made on the Okanagan Conservatives Facebook page that suggested Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was given his appointment because of affirmative action caused controversy in political circles across Canada Thursday.
On Friday, Sajjan, speaking in Halifax, said he was “surprised and equally disappointed.”
Also Friday, Fuhr visited Global News, stating “I think the author was suggesting that the minister was only in this position due to the fact he was a minority.”
Fuhr also said “It’s disappointing to see this kind of attitude continues to be just under the surface of today’s Conservative party. The comments had a lot of support from Conservative party members on their social media. You’d have to ask Andrew Scheer about that. I’m proud to be part of a party where we’ve always celebrated diversity as a strength both within our Canadian Armed Forces and our nation as a whole.”
Global News also tracked down the person who made the Facebook post.
The man, who is Indo-Canadian, who says he’s a volunteer with the local Conservative riding. He didn’t want to be identified out of fear for his safety. He says he targeted Sajjan because he doesn’t think he’s doing a good job.
“I’m sorry that I did it. I’m sorry that I offended so many people and I really feel like I let my community and my party down,” said the man. “And I’m really ashamed that this came off as — and I can see exactly how it can — in hindsight — you know hindsight is 20/20. So it’s easy for me to see how this could come off as something racist. But it wasn’t my intent whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Dan Albas, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said even though the Facebook post doesn’t involve his riding, he takes some degree of responsibility.
“Even though this wasn’t authorized by me, I took responsibility for it and I have apologized to Minister Sajjan,” said Albas.
On Thursday, Albas also denounced the Facebook post, tweeting in reply to Fuhr: “Stephen, although there is much that we may disagree about, on this point I am in full agreement with you. This FB post came from another EDA account and I have asked that it be removed. Although I did not authorize it, I would like to apologize to @HarjitSajjan.”
The Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative riding association has issued an apology, and it appears the Okanagan Conservatives’ apology has been deleted.
Prior to its removal, several people had blasted the post, including one by Lucile McGregor, who said “It represented exactly what your views are. If you write like a racist that means you’re a racist. #SHAME.”
In response to McGregor, someone at Okanagan Conservatives replied:
“Hi Lucile, we owe you and the community an apology. This post did not represent the thoughts of the party and the EDA. Multiple people has access to page. (sic) I was personally responsible for that post, I am Indo-Canadian myself, who was very proud when Sajjan Singh was named defence minister. Unfortunately, I believe terrible administration has led to me to some frustration. (sic) I have family members that wear turbans and are also proud Indo-Canadians. I was looking for a sound bite which has let me, my community, and my party down. I am terribly sorry, and I hope you can understand that we are not racist.”