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BC Green Party removes deputy leader for 'unacceptable' social media activity

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The deputy leader of the BC Green Party has been removed after liking a social media post that compared Dr. Bonnie Henry to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

Leader Sonia Furstenau announced the move in a statement on Twitter Wednesday night.

"Today, I was made aware of Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, deputy leader, liking a tweet with an inappropriate comparison between our provincial health officer and Mengele. I find this unacceptable and I have removed Dr. Gandhi as deputy leader and accepted his resignation as a candidate," she wrote.

Gandhi was named deputy leader in January. He is former chief of pediatric cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at BC Children's Hospital and has been an outspoken critic of the government's health-care policy, including its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Green Party had vetted Gandhi's candidacy, said Furstenau, at a Thursday news conference where she spoke about his removal.

“We do not as a party tolerate hateful rhetoric,” she said. “This party continues to condemn rhetoric that aligns with extreme or hateful narratives, particularly any minimizing of the Holocaust.”

In a statement Thursday, Gandhi said he liked the September post "inadvertently" and in error, and that he has since "unliked" it.

"We can be passionate and aggressive in criticizing the government, but personal attacks are categorically wrong, as was my misplaced 'like,'" his statement says.

"As the subject of considerable racism in my own life, I know that words matter, and I do not condone the belittling or demonization of any group of people for any reason, including those based on race or religion. I am sorry for the harm I have caused."

The decision to withdraw his candidacy was made in consultation with Furstenau and because of the impact the controversy would have on the campaign trail.

"I recognize that my mistake and others capitalizing on that mistake will be an unavoidable distraction," his statement continued.

He also stood by his assessment that the health-care system in B.C. is broken and that the government has failed to address the issues plaguing it.

"I hope that message, and not my blunder on Twitter, a viper pit of vitriol, encourages others to continue to demand more for British Columbians. Hopefully, in time, I personally can find another avenue to do the same," the statement concluded.

This isn’t the first time Gandhi’s social media use has landed him in hot water. In September, he liked a post that called Health Minister Adrian Dix a “charlatan eugenitist” [sic].

Gandhi was set to run in the 2024 election for a seat in Vancouver-Renfrew, which is a new riding that covers most of the Vancouver-Kingsway constituency currently represented by Dix.

Asked about the situation Thursday, Dix defended the province's handling of the pandemic and praised Henry's leadership through it. He said dropping Gandhi was "appropriate" in the circumstances, and called described his social media activity as "unacceptable" and "disgraceful."

Premier David Eby said Gandhi's social media behaviour represented a “reprehensible” attack on Henry, a dedicated public servant who helped guide the province through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Political scientist Hamish Telford says he doesn’t think the controversy will have a long lasting impact for the party, but the optics aren’t good for its leader.

“I think it does call into question Sonia Furstenau’s judgement,” said Telford. “She obviously recruited and promoted this individual and it’s ended very badly for her.”

Furstenau says she doesn't vet candidates.

“I am not specifically involved in the operations of the party vetting, but the party vets candidates,” she said.

Former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver pushed back against that claim Thursday, saying that Furstenau would have been involved in some capacity vetting and questions the party's future.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Green Party eliminated in the next election over the behaviour that we’ve seen and (that was) exemplified last night,” said Weaver.

With files from The Canadian Press.

  

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