A Liberal candidate says remarks he made more than a decade ago were taken out of context after the Conservative party sent tweets suggesting he was “conflicted” about honouring veterans on Remembrance Day.
In a tweet posted Sunday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer‘s communications director Brock W. Harrison claimed Liberal candidate for Don Valley West Rob Oliphant was “conflicted” about Remembrance Day because he had said honouring war heroes was glorifying war. Harrison said Oliphant, a church pastor, made the remarks in a sermon he delivered in 2006.
“To honour our heroes is to ‘glorify war?'” Harrison wrote.
“I’m glad we live in a country where people have the freedom to criticize those who die for that freedom,” he said. “It’s just sad they’re running for Justin Trudeau.”
Attached to the tweet, Harrison included an excerpt from a sermon Oliphant delivered at Eglinton St. George’s United Church in November 2006 with a passage highlighted in red.
Similarly, Conservative candidate for Durham Erin O’Toole claimed in a tweet sent Sunday that Oliphant believes Remembrance Day and military commemoration should be “scaled back because it ‘glorifies war’ and promotes a ‘national war machine.'”
The tweets came the same day Scheer unveiled the Conservatives’ proposed plan to assist veterans, vowing to clear the backlog of benefit applications during a campaign event in P.E.I.
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However, in a series of tweets of his own on Sunday, Oliphant said his remarks had been taken out of context and that this was “yet another example of the Conservatives attempting to spread false information.”
“The Conservatives have pulled 5 words from a sermon I gave in 2006 in an attempt to mislead voters about my support for Veterans and my thoughts about war and conflict,” he wrote on Twitter. “The 5 words they pulled do not even appear in my sermon as quoted.”
He added that his “support for the men and women who have served our country is unwavering.”
Oliphant said they should have read the entire sermon to understand how he feels about Canadian veterans.
“Young soldiers going off to war have never fought for the continuance of war,” he wrote. “What they have fought for is the continuance of peace.
“If we are going to honour those who have offered their lives and ever given their lives, we can do nothing but work for that which they worked for: for a loving and peaceful world.”
What did Oliphant say in 2006?
Oliphant also tweeted a transcript of the 2006 sermon he delivered.
The passage in question appears the same as the one tweeted by the Conservatives, however it does not include the red highlight.
Here’s what Oliphant said:
“In 2006, I find myself much more conflicted about Remembrance Day observances. The simple message of those earlier years and that age are not nearly as satisfying for me in today’s complex world. It seems that, as we take greater time to honour the veterans each year, there is an increasing tendency to glorify war. At times, the suffering of those who have been through war seems to be being co-opted, used to promote a remilitarization of Canada. I have an increasing suspicion that there is a movement to glorify the past such that we will then provide arms enough to continue towards becoming a national war-machine.”
He continues on to say that while he holds these thoughts, he knows “very well of the freedom that was fought for and that people gave their lives for.”
“I have, as a minister of the congregation, a pastoral and human need to honour that,” he said. “Concurrently, I know that I have to stand up for justice and for what I personally believe to be right. I need to be clear about calling to do everything we can to avoid war and conflict.
“So I stand among you today wanting to enter into a conversation about this time of year, about what it means, about where our country has been in the past, is now and needs to go in the future.”
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Not the first incident
When asked on Monday about the criticism the party has received over the tweets sent out over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Conservatives said the party had ”nothing to add” and that it would ”let Rob Oliphant’s disgusting comments stand.”
“Remembrance Day is about honouring the military heroes — past and present — who sacrificed everything for our rights and freedoms. They don’t ‘glorify war’ like Mr. Oliphant said. There is nothing to be ‘conflicted’ about.”
However, this is not the first time the Conservative party has received criticism for tweets.
The same day, a Conservative party riding association was forced to delete a tweet containing a meme that falsely said comedian Rick Mercer was urging young people to “vote Conservative.”
Monitoring social media
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Canada’s chief electoral officer, Stephane Perrault, said Elections Canada is monitoring social media.
“Our mandate is to make sure Canadians have the correct information on the voting process, and if there is incorrect information, wherever the source, whether it’s foreign or domestic, … we are positioned to rectify that information,” he said.
WATCH: Elections Canada taking steps to combat foreign interference
“Canadians are aware of what’s going on around the world, and they’re learning to check their sources in terms of the information,” he said. “And so I’m very confident that we will have a solid election again this year.”
The Commissioner of Canada Elections — who is responsible for enforcing the Canada Elections Act — would not confirm if there is an investigation on the incident for privacy reasons.