Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Kelowna’s two MPs don’t agree on much these days, but Liberal Stephen Fuhr and Conservative Dan Albas have both spoken out about a Facebook post by the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative riding association targeting Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

RELATED: Kelowna area MP’s clash on Twitter

The post, which has now been taken down, shared an Ottawa Citizen news story about a December 2017 Canadian Forces flight to Greece and Latvia where several non-government civilian VIPs were described as being drunk and Sajjan’s response to questions about the flight.

But it was not the story that upset the two MPs and members of the Kelowna Indo-Canadian community who spoke with the Capital News, it was the comment added to the post by an unnamed member of the the riding association.

“This is what happens when you have a cabinet based on affirmative action,” says the comment above a photo of Sajjan, a Sikh who wears a turban.

“I am not OK with what this implies,” wrote Fuhr in response. And, he publicly asked Albas via social media if, as an Okanagan Conservative, he was comfortable with the comment.

Albas said Thursday he was not. He said he was unaware of the post until Fuhr brought it to his attention and acted immediately it taken down.

He said he immediately contacted the president of the Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative riding association to express his concern and apologized directly to Sajjan for the post, even though it did not come from his Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative riding association.

“This is clearly not something I agree with,” he said of the comment added to the Facebook post.

In a Twitter response to Fuhr, Albas said: “Stephen, although there is much that we may disagree about, on this point I am in full agreement with you. This FB post came from another (riding association) and I have asked that it be removed. Although I did not authorize it, I would like to apologize to @HarjitSajjan.”

“Political debate and discussions should always be about policy and not personal attacks. Minister Sajjan has served our country honourably in many capacities and was undeserving of the comments that were posted.”

Sajjan is a decorated former Canadian soldier who has been recognized for his leadership of Canadian forces in Afghanistan prior to entering politics.

It was not only Fuhr who was upset by the post.

Kelowna Coun. Mohini Singh, whose mother is a Sikh and whose father is Hindu, expressed outrage, labelling the comment as “racism,” and saying it had no place in Canadian politics.

“This is U.S.-style politics,” said Singh. “This is so wrong.”

She said she talked to others in the community and they too were upset when they heard about the Facebook post.

Singh said from a local perspective, Kelowna has made great strides to be an inclusive city and “does not need headlines like this.”

“(The news story) has nothing to do with Harjit Sajjan being a Sikh or being a Canadian,” said Singh. “It’s shocking.”

Paramjit Singh Patara, vice-president of the Okanagan Sikh Temple stopped short of calling the comment racist, but said he too was outraged.

“We don’t need this type of Trump-style politics in Canada,” he said referencing U.S. President Donald Trump and the divisive rhetoric he regularly uses,” said Patara.

“I don’t want to use the word (racism) but it does not smell good.”

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