TRENTON, PICTOU COUNTY: Despite a public backlash after apologizing for sharing posts on social media about Muslims and immigrants, the Conservative candidate will remain in the race for Central Nova.
According to information obtained by CTV News, Steven Cotter reposted messages about sharia law, which is Islamic legal tradition and derived from the Quran; he expressed his support in Canada prohibiting the burqa, which is worn by numerous Muslim women; and also questioned funding for immigrants.
The broadcaster ran national coverage of the town councillor, school bus driver and volunteer firefighter’s past social media posts on Sept. 4.
“In the past, I have shared social media posts without thinking about how these posts might hurt or offend others. I have deleted these posts and apologize unreservedly,” Cotter said in a public statement on his Facebook campaign page on Sept. 5. “I recognize that what I was posted was not simply hurtful, it was animated with Islamophobic and anti-immigrant tropes.”
Cotter’s now-deactivated Facebook account reposted a story about a Muslim passenger who made a request to his black, London taxi driver to turn off the radio because it offended his faith. The driver is said to have told the passenger to exit the vehicle and ride a camel instead.
“This is a damn good question,” he wrote to a repost of a message asking why British, Canadian, United States and United Kingdom military veterans receive lower pensions but immigrants “who have done nothing for our nations” receive housing, medical treatment, and other benefits.
“Islamophobia has no place in Nova Scotia, and I promise that I will take time to engage in reflection and learning,” Cotter said. “Specifically, I will be reaching out this week to my local mosque to begin that process.”
He also said “a huge yes” to a post with a photo of ladies wearing burqas and the statement “France and the Netherlands ban the burqa on security grounds. Repost if you think Canada should do the same!”
In another occurrence, Cotter also shared a Facebook message falsely claiming that former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard advised Muslims who wanted to live under sharia law to leave the country.
Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser took to social media upon learning of the situation and said while he has always enjoyed his conversations and sincerely respects Cotter’s service to the community as a volunteer and municipal councillor, he said the posts are obviously inappropriate and there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour.
“Members of Parliament have the opportunity to help shape immigration and refugee policy. Systemic racism and Islamophobia in particular have been high profile issues in Canada’s political discourse over the past few years,” Fraser said. “It is hard to conclude that someone with a history of sharing offensive Facebook posts that spread false and harmful stereotypes about immigrants and Muslim Canadians will advance policies on these matters in a positive way.”
Central Nova NDP Candidate Betsy MacDonald also took to social media to say the NDP condemns racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism unequivocally.
“A political party demonstrates its values in large part through the individuals it puts forward as candidates. Is it enough to apologize or delete social media content?” MacDonald said. “The Conservatives owe it to voters to explain their stance on immigration, immigrants, religious freedom and women’s right to choose how to dress.”
Fraser went on to say he has met immigrants, refugees, and Muslim Canadians who are working as doctors, nurses, artists, entrepreneurs and many other roles that benefit our communities.
“This is their home now too. I see them helping transform our region into a more vibrant and dynamic place to live every day,” he said. “Many of the newcomers I have met want to give back to our country, because it has given them and their families a new lease on life. In my view, we are lucky to have such neighbours.”