Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is “pleased” to see Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole attempting to remove a frequently condemned member of his caucus over campaign contributions from a man who has been described as a neo-Nazi.
In a press conference held outside Rideau Cottage on Tuesday morning, Trudeau addressed O’Toole’s announcement the previous evening that he is beginning the process to try to remove Derek Sloan from the Conservative Party caucus in light of the contribution.
“Political parties need to remain vigilant, particularly in the wake of what we’ve seen in the United States from the infiltration or the active presence of fringe or extremist or violent or unacceptable or intolerant elements,” said Trudeau when asked about the decision.
“That’s something that we constantly need to work towards as all politicians in Canada.”
“The Liberal Party has been calling for Erin O’Toole to remove Derek Sloan from caucus for many, many months now following a number of unacceptable comments that he has made,” Trudeau continued.
“We are pleased that Erin O’Toole has finally decided to take leadership and we’ll see how that unfolds.”
O’Toole does not have the authority to unilaterally eject Sloan from caucus.
Under the terms of the Reform Act, adopted by his caucus, he must first submit a motion to the caucus chair seeking to review Sloan’s membership and get at least 20 per cent of caucus signatures on that.
Then, the caucus will vote by secret ballot whether to eject Sloan.
The move comes after the party confirmed a report by Press Progress that found Sloan had accepted a contribution from a prominent Canadian white supremacist who praised the mass murders by a white American extremist of Black churchgoers in a rampage at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the man in question as a neo-Nazi.
In an interview with Global News on Tuesday, Sloan dismissed the calls to remove him from caucus as “trumped up charges.”
“This is infighting and it’s not good for the future of conservatism in Canada,” he said.
Sloan also maintained that he did not know of the donation before Monday, adding that he condemns racism and hatred.
“I don’t know much about Paul Fromm,” he said. “I understand that he’s affiliated with racist groups. I condemn that I, I condemn racism. I condemn hatred.”
“That’s certainly something I’m proud to say.”
Sloan said his campaign team did not have the manpower to conduct background checks on each individual donation, and said several of his Conservative colleagues have offered their support.
“I don’t want to highlight anybody in particular, but you know, I think many people that I’ve spoken to, frankly, understand that this can happen to anyone,” he said.
In a statement Monday evening, Sloan said Fromm had applied and was accepted as a member of the party last summer, amid the party’s leadership race.
“Even though the representatives of the campaigns of O’Toole, MacKay and Lewis all had scrutineers present, not one of the campaigns objected to his ballot, and it seems that his ballot was accepted,” he said in the statement.
However, in an email to Global News, a spokesperson from the Conservative Party said it was Sloan’s campaign that sold Fromm a party membership in May.
“Mr. Sloan’s campaign accepted the donation from this individual in August,” the email read. “We are revoking this membership. We are remitting the funds.”
The contribution to Sloan’s campaign is under the spotlight in the wake of a deadly insurrection two weeks ago at the U.S. Capitol in which a pro-Trump mob of right-wing extremists including neo-Nazis stormed the building equipped with firearms, explosives and zip ties.
FBI has opened more than 160 case files into individuals believed to be involved, and formed a strike team focusing on building evidence to support planned charges of sedition.
Some 10,000 National Guard members are in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday but the siege has led to increased vetting of those people.
Two National Guard members were removed from duty in the inauguration over ties to right-wing extremist groups, officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
-With files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson