A federal Conservative candidate in Ontario says he has apologized over a 2013 letter he wrote in his local newspaper urging people to consider “dressing more modestly” to avoid being raped, saying he has since learned what a victim wears “doesn’t matter.”
Tim Durkin, Tory candidate for Bay of Quinte, wrote the letter published in the Belleville Intelligencer in 2013 in response to Slutwalk, an annual event that takes place in communities across the country and is aimed at tackling misconceptions around sexual violence.
Durkin wrote at the time that “the concern I have is that certain things attract certain people.”
Durkin continued, saying “all the slogans and sayings and good intentions in the world” won’t stop people who are “set off by the sight of someone dressed in provocative clothing.”
“It’s not right; it simply is. And that leaves the rest of us having to protect each other, and sometimes that means taking proactive measures to help ensure certain things don’t happen,” he wrote.
“These people who make terrible choices to harm someone in an evil way have no excuse, they need to be punished. And we need to continue to spread the word that those who are victims of these acts are in no way responsible for them.
“However, since we know that evil people do exist, perhaps we can help protect each other by dressing more modestly.”
READ MORE: Canada election — Bay of Quinte
With the federal election less than two weeks away, Durkin’s letter has been circulating on social media and prompting renewed questions online about whether he still believes what a victim wears is relevant to whether they are sexually assaulted.
Durkin insists that’s not the case and says he apologized directly to the organizers of Slutwalk in Belleville this summer, a little over a year after he won the Conservative nomination in the riding.
Durkin, a former sports broadcaster and on-air host with Quinte Broadcasting Company, became the Conservative candidate on April 27, 2018.
“When I met with the organizers of Slutwalk and heard directly from the victims, supporters and volunteers, I learned that clothing doesn’t matter and I apologized,” he told Global News.
“I continue to firmly believe victims are never at fault.”
An organizer from Reclaim Your Power Belleville, the group that organizes the local Slutwalk, shared a copy of that apology with Global News.
In it, Durkin thanks the group for inviting him to take part in the 2019 Slutwalk, which organizers confirm he did on July 6.
“So valuable to hear first hand from victims, supporters, volunteers, family and friends. I firmly believe victims are never at fault.”
Organizers said they extended their invitation to Durkin along with several other politicians, but he was the only one who showed up.
“We reached out to him as well as other local politicians. He was the only one who showed up, which speaks volumes,” the group said in a statement.
“He spoke to us at length about our walk and that six-year-old article. He absolutely has learned and changed his outlook.”
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party would not say whether the party knew about the letter when Durkin ran for and won the nomination last year.
Other candidates running in the Bay of Quinte riding are incumbent Liberal candidate Neil Ellis, NDP candidate Stephanie Bell, Green Party candidate Danny Celovsky and People’s Party candidate Paul Bordonaro.