Toronto Liberal candidate for Spadina-Fort York asked to 'pause his campaign'
TORONTO -- A Toronto Liberal candidate has been asked to “pause his campaign” amid reports of a sexual assault charge from 2019 that was later withdrawn.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was asked about the allegation at a news conference on Friday and confirmed the party had asked Kevin Vuong, the candidate for Spadina-Fort York, to take a break from campaigning.
“We are looking into it very carefully,” Trudeau told reporters.
"We are a party that always takes seriously any allegations or reports of sexual harassment or intimidation or assault. That has been clear from the very beginning.”
The Toronto Star reported Friday that Vuong had been charged with sexual assault in 2019 and that the charge was later withdrawn. Vuong told the Star that the allegations were false, that he fought against the allegations and that he finds it “deeply troubling” they surfaced in the last week of the federal election campaign.
CTV News Toronto has not independently confirmed the charge.
In a statement released Friday morning, the Conservative Party claimed the Liberal Party “hid” the charge, adding that the candidate should be fired.
“This pattern of cover-ups by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party must stop. Once again Canadians are left wondering how they can trust the Liberals,” the party said.
“Justin Trudeau must do the right thing and immediately fire this candidate and confirm that if elected, this candidate will not sit in the Liberal Caucus."
Trudeau would not confirm what actions the party would take should Vuong be elected in Spadina-Fort York.
CTV News Toronto has reached out to Vuong for comment.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also released a statement saying that Trudeau’s decision not to fire Vuong or address other allegations against Liberal candidates contradicts his claims that he is a feminist prime minister.
“Earlier in this campaign, survivors of sexual assault watched for five days while Justin Trudeau defended Raj Saini,” Singh said.
“Again, Mr. Trudeau is refusing to fire a candidate who has been accused of sexual assault. From sexual misconduct in the military to accusations against himself and his candidates, Justin Trudeau has repeatedly shown women that he doesn’t believe them.”
Saini, former MP for Kitchener Centre, stepped down earlier this month amid allegations that he harassed a female staff member. Saini firmly denies the claims.