Ethnic controversies dog Grits and Tories
Screen grabs from Scarborough Southwest PC candidate Gavan Paranchothy's website.
OTTAWA — As the federal political leaders headed back out on the hustings Thursday following the debate intermission, both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper were tripped up by ethnic controversies.
A Conservative candidate in Toronto came under fire Thursday for allegedly being a sympathizer of the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization. A television host for Tamil Vision International, Ragavan Paranchothy hosted a tribute in November to Maveerar Naal, or Heroes Day, which is an annual commemoration of dead Tiger fighters.
But in a statement Thursday, Paranchothy said any insinuations that he is a supporter or sympathizer of the Tigers are "not true."
"I must make clear that it is not true and that I absolutely condemn terrorists and terrorism. I believe in the rule of law and the democratic process," he said, adding work he did as a journalist doesn't reflect his personal views.
The Tories were also attacked Thursday for an e-mail a campaign volunteer sent to Arab supporters in Toronto, asking them to wear "national folklore costumes" to Harper's rally in Etobicoke Thursday night to be seen behind him on television during his speech.
"I think that story is absolutely bizarre, we have never done that. You've been to our rallies, we have great representation, and we're getting better support than ever across all cultural communities in this country, and that is not how we do business. I just think that's bizarre." Harper said.
Ignatieff blasted Harper over the e-mail, saying it's insulting to new Canadians.
"Canada isn't Disneyland. Ethnic groups do not want to be treated in this way, they want to be treated as Canadians first, last and always," Ignatieff said. "They take enormous pride in the dress that they bring from their homelands, but I think it's entirely inappropriate for Mr. Harper to say, 'Show up in my meetings in your colourful costumes and we'll have a little Canadian Disneyland for the purpose of the press,' I find that insulting to Canadians."
But Ignatieff had some explaining to do himself over why he agreed to a one-on-one interview with Sukhminder Singh Hansra, a Sikh journalist who in an editorial praised the near-fatal beating of Liberal incumbent Ujjal Dosanjh in 1985 and also ran front page endorsements in his Sikh weekly newspaper of the machine-gun assassination in 1984 of Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi.
When asked about the interview, Ignatieff said he had "no truck or trade" with political violence and would review the interview, "and if there's any question of taking part in an interview which gives licence to political extremism, I'll have nothing to do with it," he said.
Later, Grit spokesman Dan Lauzon confirmed the Thursday morning interview would go ahead.
"The Liberal Party rejects anything that advocates violence, and this interview is in no way an endorsement of the interviewer's views. In fact, we welcome every opportunity to deliver a message of tolerance, respect for the Charter and human dignity," Lauzon wrote in an e-mail to reporters travelling with Ignatieff's campaign. "To be sure, Mr. Hansra has said controversial things in the past, but he has an established mainstream presence both in his capacity as a journalist, but also as a regular contributor in other mainstream media."
- With files from Jessica Murphy