The Green Party candidate in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke withdrew from Monday’s federal election after making controversial comments comparing COVID-19 vaccination passports to Nazism during a recent debate.
A Green Party spokesperson confirmed to Global News in a statement that Michael LaRiviere has withdrawn his candidacy.
“We received a complaint last week and asked Mr. LaRiviere to apologize and retract a statement he made during an all-candidate meeting. He refused and decided to withdraw as a Green Party candidate, “the spokesman said Monday.
The controversy stems from comments made during a debate between candidates in eastern Ontario on horseback on Saturday night.
On highlights from YourTV Ottawa Valley debate broadcast On YouTube, LaRiviere responds to a question about whether he agrees with governments promoting COVID-19 vaccines.
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“I do not agree with imposing any law in that sense, but I do agree with educating people about why they should be vaccinated,” he began.
“I myself have been vaccinated, but I don’t want to carry a passport. Because that will be the beginning of, as I see it, the Gestapo and the German army during WWII wanted people to get tattoos. This is the beginning of that step. We already have an autocracy in Ottawa, we don’t have a democracy. And that worries me, ”LaRiviere said.
The Gestapo was a secret state police used by Nazi Germany before and during World War II. Among the uses of the police was to take Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust, as well as to suppress resistance to the authoritarian regime of the Nazi Party.
in a Green Party Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Facebook post riding association, the former candidate’s comments in the debate were described as “unacceptable”.
“We deeply regret the offensive statements by Mr. La Riviere (sic) and sincerely apologize for the anguish his words have caused,” the message said.
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LaRiviere spoke to Global News on Monday afternoon and said he volunteered at the party to retract his statement, saying he “regretted using it and … would be more careful in the future.”
But he said he was asked to go further with an apology that he said covered more than his comments explicitly mentioned.
“They wanted to drag in the Jews and how the Gestapo had affected the Jews. It wasn’t about the Jews. It was about a vaccination passport and the Gestapo, ”he said.
LaRiviere said his comments were intended to highlight his concerns about the government’s control of the residents’ daily lives, not specifically the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.
“I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression, but it had nothing to do with the Jewish people. And they wanted me to retract that in the statement. And that was a no-no in my opinion, because that would link me to associate the Jewish people with this particular use of the word, “he said, regarding his use of” Gestapo. “
Global News asked if the Green Party expected LaRiviere to include a reference to the Jewish people in an apology for anti-Semitism concerns among its ranks, over which the party has faced controversy in the past. Green leader Annamie Paul is the first black and Jewish woman to lead a federal party in Canada.
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“That is not accurate. He was asked to apologize because his comments were insensitive, offensive and hurtful, ”the spokesperson said.
Global News then asked if the party explicitly required a mention of the Jewish people in the apology, but the spokesperson did not respond to that question.
The late withdrawal means LaRiviere’s name will continue to appear alongside the Green Party on Monday’s ballots, but the spokesperson confirmed that he is no longer associated with the party.
“If elected, he can choose to sit as an independent or represent another party. He will not represent the Green Party, ”said the spokesperson.
LaRiviere, a transportation pilot for 37 years, said he is not “fooled” into thinking he will topple Conservative Party head Cheryl Gallant, who has served as a MP for driving for more than two decades. But he said that if elected he would be independent in Parliament.
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