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BC Liberal candidate apologizes for 2012 comments about drug users being ‘criminals’

BC Liberal candidate Bruce Banman and BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.
BC Liberal candidate Bruce Banman and BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. BC Liberal Party

The BC Liberal candidate in the Lower Mainland, who is also a former mayor, is apologizing for comments he made years ago referring to drug users as criminals.

Bruce Banman issued a news release on Monday morning after his party leader, Andrew Wilkinson, was asked about the comments during a campaign event in Richmond.

The Abbotsford South candidate said he made a mistake and regrets what he said in 2012.

“I have learned much about treatment of addiction since then and fully support Andrew Wilkinson in dealing with this as a health issue and ensuring people have a path to recovery,” Banman said.

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Banman, who was mayor of Abbotsford at the time, was quoted in a 2012 news article about the city’s safe needle exchange.

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“You are, if you are a drug user, a criminal. You’re not a helpless victim. You are, and choose to be, a criminal,” he was quoted as saying.

“It is an illegal activity that you are doing. If you are a pedophile, you are a criminal. And how we deal with criminals is we lock ’em up.”

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Abbotsford South has been a safe Liberal seat historically. Darryl Plecas was elected in 2017, but quit to sit as an independent while serving as speaker.

Wilkinson was asked on Monday if Banman was still welcome to run for his party, prior to Banman’s news release. He said he expects him to retract the comments because they are out of date.

“We need to be clear: mental-health issue are a medical issue,” Wilkinson told reporters. “Addictions are, similarly, a medical disorder of various causes. We need to treat those causes so we can prevent the harm.”

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Banman also stirred controversy in 2013, when staff spread chicken manure on a homeless camp in a bid to deter people from setting up tents.

The then-mayor later apologized, and called the manure dumping a “stain on Abbotsford’s good reputation.”