Former Liberal candidate who pointed out Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity says she is not racist

The Liberal party has rejected Karen Wang's plea for a second chance.
January 18, 2019, 5:42pm
The Liberal party has shut down former candidate Karen Wang’s plea for a second chance.

The Liberal party has shut down former candidate Karen Wang’s plea for a second chance, amid a storm of controversy over comments she made referencing NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s race.

Karen Wang tried on Thursday to revive her campaign, saying a comment she made on the Chinese social media app WeChat, in which she pointed out that Singh was Indian, was misinterpreted.

Wang, a 43-year-old daycare operator, was running against Singh in the Burnaby South byelection and on Saturday, used WeChat to urge Chinese-Canadians voters to vote for her, “the only ethnic Chinese Canadian,” and not Singh, who she pointed out was of Indian descent.

“It really makes me hurt and I feel as if I am abused,” she told reporters on Thursday. “This is not me at all — I am not a racist.”

She asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party for a second chance, a day after resigning, arguing that her WeChat post was “merely a statement of fact.”

Wang said that the post was written by a campaign volunteer and that the words should’ve translated to Chinese-Canadian and Indian-Canadian.

“Normally, the Chinese language has a tradition,” she told The Star Vancouver in an interview. “The media always has to point out what cultural background this candidate has. That’s a tradition… I didn’t mean any disrespect to him.”

She told reporters, “As a person with a Chinese background, you are trying to gain people’s support from this cultural background… I just want Chinese people to get involved.”

Some in the Chinese Canadian community, however, reject this explanation.

“Infuriating to watch former Liberal candidate Wang’s [interview with CBC],” tweeted former MP and Toronto city councilor Olivia Chow “She blamed the Chinese culture, Chinese community’s tradition and the language for focusing on candidate’s ethnicity. Such lies cause further division.”

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Singh said it was up to the Liberals to decide whether or not to keep her on as a candidate, and that he wanted to move forward and focus on election issues.

“Politics that divided along racial lines hurt our communities,” he added. “They’re not where we want to go; they’re not the kind of community we want to build.”

In a statement, the Liberal Party said Wang is no longer a candidate and that her values don’t align with those of the party. They have not yet said if another candidate will run against Singh in her place.

Cover image: Karen Wang at a press conference in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo by Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)