Racist slurs during Conservative leadership debate not surprising: Lewis

Racist slurs during Conservative leadership debate not surprising: Lewis

Racist slurs during Conservative leadership debate not surprising: Lewis

OTTAWA — The litany of racial slurs inserted into the comments section of an online Conservative leadership debate Wednesday was not surprising, candidate Leslyn Lewis said the next day.

Lewis, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan were debating B.C.-related issues when for nearly a minute, slurs started filling the chat box of the video conference program.

Lewis, who is the first Black candidate to run for the Conservative party leadership, said she saw them and then closed the chat screen so she could focus on the event.

“The racist comments during last night’s debate which were directed at me, Black people and Jewish people were sadly not surprising,” she said in a statement Thursday.

“This past week we saw much more blatant displays of antisemitism in Toronto, and it has not been an irregular occurrence for me to encounter racist individuals during this campaign.”

A transcript of the debate chat provided to The Canadian Press by organizers suggests the racist slurs were one of several attempts by to hijack the discussion, with the other interjections seemingly nonsensical.

Debate organizer Angelo Isidorou called the incident “mortifying.”

He said as the comments were noticed, moderators booted the user from the chat, but then a new one would pop up. Eventually, they disabled the chat function altogether.

“We are thankful to the hundreds of members in the chat who alerted us to these terrible comments and demanded swift action, which we took,” he said.

Isidorou said some cursory research by the organizing team suggested there had been a plan prior to the event to disrupt it.

The link to join the online debate was widely circulated as the event was backed by all 42 riding associations in the province.

The racist comments weren’t mentioned by the candidates or moderator during the event, but screenshots of them circulated online after they were removed.

Peter MacKay, who skipped the debate, later condemned the incident on social media, calling it “disgusting and totally unacceptable.”

Hackers disrupting video conference calls have been a hazard as the software has exploded in use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Lewis’ campaign said though the team has held hundreds of online sessions, they’ve only experienced a single other instance of someone attempting to disrupt the event, and in that one, the commentator was attacking Lewis for her gender.

Her campaign said her previous encounters with racism on the campaign trail have come in the form of social-media messages and direct correspondence.

In her statement, Lewis said the response from fellow Conservatives to the events of Wednesday night prove to her that racist behaviour is not acceptable in the party.

“I truly believe that together we will continue to make Canada a welcoming and safe place for all.”

Voting is now underway in the race and the mail-in ballots are due back by Aug. 21, with a winner expected to be announced the week after.

The debate Wednesday night covered a range of regional topics, including a rise in crimes against Chinese-Canadians since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is believed to have originated in China.

Candidates were asked to address how they’d balance effective criticism of China while maintaining strong and positive outreach to the Chinese-Canadian community.

All three said they knew they had to be careful and watch their words, ensuring their concerns with China don’t get translated to racism in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 11 additional deaths over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta
Red Deer active COVID-19 cases drop slightly

Province reports 267 additional COVID-19 cases, 11 new deaths

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

Most Read