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Rookie Belleville, Ont., MP gets blowback for ‘racist’ comments against Canada’s top doctor

Rookie Belleville, Ont., MP gets blowback for controversial comments against Canada’s top doctor
WATCH: MP Derek Sloan alleges Dr. Theresa Tam is “working for China,” and demands that she be fired, causing strong reaction from politicians, experts and his local constituents.

First-time member of Parliament and candidate for the Conservative leadership Derek Sloan is under fire after posting a video suggesting Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, works for China and is putting Canadians’ lives at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does she work for Canada or for China?” Sloan, the MP for Hastings–Lennox and Addington, asks in a video posted to his social media accounts on Tuesday.

“Dr. Tam must go! Canada must remain sovereign over decisions,” the video caption read.

In the video, Sloan, Member of Parliament for Hastings–Lennox and Addington, accused Dr. Tam of “parroting” the Communist Party of China’s misinformation.

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READ MORE: Canada adds over 1,900 new coronavirus cases, 173 more deaths

On Thursday, Canada’s top doctor fired back, addressing the rookie MP’s comments.

“My singular focus is to work with all my colleagues to get this epidemic wave under control. I don’t let noise sort of detract me from doing that,” said Tam.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was also asked about his member’s recent video suggesting Tam is working for China and calling for her termination.

“I have not, nor will I in the future comment on individual positions or statements by leadership candidates,” Scheer said before reiterating his party’s position that the Trudeau government needs to be held accountable for its decisions.

Toronto school tackling COVID-19-related xenophobia
Toronto school tackling COVID-19-related xenophobia

Sloan’s hard stance on China is one that’s been echoed across the conservative world, including by his fellow competitors in the leadership race.

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He’s added his name to a letter signed by two other leadership candidates, Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay, as well as over 100 political analysts and figures globally, alleging a widespread coverup by China of the scope of the problem caused by the novel coronavirus.

The fourth candidate, Leslyn Lewis, has also been critical of China, saying the country can’t be trusted as a source for Canadian supplies.

In an email, she suggested criticism of Sloan was going too far.

“In a free and democratic society like Canada, we should be able to question the WHO, the government, and even government officials without being accused of racism,” said Lewis.

On Thursday night, Sloan took to social media again, posting a letter demanding Tam be fired.

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In an email to The Canadian Press, Sloan said his remarks were about Tam’s decisions, not her personally.

“I don’t know Dr. Tam. I have never met her. I have not personally attacked her. She is, though, a public figure of a very high rank and profile. Dr. Tam is not immune from criticism,” he said.

Global News reached out to Sloan repeatedly for comment, but he never responded.

READ MORE: How many Canadians have COVID-19? Here's a look at case numbers by region

The video Sloan posted provoked a mixed reaction on social media, with some saying, “our next prime minister,” while others accused him of being “racist” and “xenophobic.”

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Many politicians also chiming in on Sloan’s recent comments.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took to Twitter, saying, “there is no question that MP Sloan’s comments against Dr. Theresa Tam fuel this kind of racism.”

Conservatives also spoke up, such as MP Michelle Rempel Garner.

Global News went to Sloan’s riding of Hastings–Lennox and Addington on Thursday and spoke to several people on the streets.

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Many didn’t know he was running for the Conservative leadership bid, while others accused him of being ‘two-faced’ and using their area as a ‘springboard’ to get into that position.

“You don’t like to see your riding’s name being kind of dragged through the mud,” said Sarah Burn, a resident of Stirling, Ont.

She continued by saying, “his first reaction is immediately to run for leadership instead of looking after their constituents. It’s kind of like a slap in the face.”

A Kingston, Ont. political expert told Global News that this isn’t the first time an unknown politician has brought forward strong opinions to gather attention. And it’s a move, according to Kathy Brock, a political studies professor at Queen’s University, that may diminish the Conservative party’s image.

“The Conservatives have been making a lot of inroads with Chinese Canadians. The support has been moving towards the Conservatives since 2010 and on. It’s a battleground with the Liberals,” said Brock.

“This could have negative effects on the party, and he’s going to have to be very careful.”

— With files by The Canadian Press