B.C. Liberal MLA Rich Coleman apologizes for comparing farm bill to the Holocaust

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WATCH: Liberal MLA Rich Coleman is apologizing for comments he made comparing the NDP's reforms of the Agricultural Land Commission to the Holocaust – May 3, 2019

B.C. Liberal MLA Rich Coleman has apologized for comments he made comparing the NDP’s Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) reforms to the Holocaust.

Coleman made the comments Thursday during a debate in the legislature over Bill 15, which the NDP says will strengthen the independence of the commission, but which the Liberals say will take away farmers’ voices.

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“The fact that you’d take away people as people and they’re no longer persons in a piece of legislation. Particularly on a day like today. On a day like today, when we witnessed people whose rights were taken apart and away from them in the 1940s,” Coleman said.

The comments drew fury, including from NDP MLA Selina Robinson, who pointed out that Coleman had made the comments on Yom Hashoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

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Coleman later tweeted a pair of apologies. He wrote, “Because of the emotion of today I drew an analogy [that] was insensitive, I apologize to anyone who took offence.” He then issued a second, more detailed apology.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkenson also released a statement addressing the controversy, without naming Coleman specifically.

“The Holocaust is a black mark on human history, representing an evil that must be recognized by us all,” Wilkinson wrote.

“Drawing parallels between discriminatory legislation and the Holocaust is absolutely inappropriate and on behalf of the B.C. Liberal Caucus we reject any comparisons.”

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The B.C. Liberals argue the NDP’s proposed legislation curtails farmers’ rights by blocking them from directly petitioning the ALC to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Under the proposed legislation, only the province, local governments and First Nations would have that power.

The NDP says the legislation will ensure the protection of farmland, and that shifting the power to remove land from the reserve will ensure applications to do so will be done “as part of [a] thoughtful land-use planning process.”

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