Wang, a daycare operator, became the subject of controversy on Tuesday night after she posted a message on the social messaging app WeChat that urged voters to support her as the only candidate of Chinese origin and singled out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is also running in the riding byelection next month, as being “of Indian origin.”
That message, first reported by the Toronto Star, was translated as reading, “If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the byelection, control the election race and make history! My opponent in this byelection is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!”
In a statement Wednesday, Wang announced her decision to step aside and said she apologizes to Singh for the message.
“I’ve been proud to call Burnaby South my home since I arrived in Canada as a newcomer twenty years ago. The diverse character of this community is a real source of strength, and diversity enriches all of us as Canadians,” she wrote in the statement.
“In trying to speak about my own story and the importance of people of all different backgrounds getting involved in this important by-election, I made comments online that also referenced Jagmeet Singh’s cultural background. My choice of words wasn’t well-considered and didn’t reflect my intent, and for that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Singh. I have deep respect for him as the leader of his party and for his public service – and I would never want to diminish that in any way.”
WATCH BELOW: Federal battle brewing in Burnaby as byelections called
She then said she was stepping down out of concern her comments would become a “distraction” to the upcoming federal election.
“After consideration with my supporters, I have decided to step aside as the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South by-election,” she wrote.
“I believe in the progress that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are making for British Columbians and all Canadians, and I do not wish for any of my comments to be a distraction in that work.”
Braeden Caley, senior director of communications for the Liberal Party of Canada, said her comments did not fit the values of the party.
“Recent online comments by Karen Wang are not aligned with the values of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberal Party has accepted her resignation as the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South by-election,” he said in a statement.
“Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have always stood for the full and equal participation of all Canadians in our democracy, regardless of their background. The Liberal Party has a clear commitment to positive politics and support for Canadian diversity, and the same is always expected of our candidates.”
Polls as recently as Tuesday suggest Singh holds a sizeable lead among Burnaby South voters.
He issued a statement prior to Wang’s resignation announcement saying the voters expect their representative to represent people from all backgrounds.
WATCH: What Wang’s remarks about targeting ethnic votes mean
“I intend to represent everyone, whether their background is Korean, Sri Lankan, Chinese, European, Japanese, South Asian, Vietnamese, African or Indigenous – anyone who calls Burnaby South their home,” he said.
“People here expect no less.”
Wang’s comments quickly sparked criticism of racism and identity politics after the report about them was published.
With a byelection scheduled for Feb. 25, it is unclear whether the Liberals will attempt to nominate another candidate to run against Singh.
His opponents, with Wang’s resignation, are Conservative candidate and corporate lawyer Jay Shin, and former Christian TV host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson for the People’s Party of Canada.
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