By SHAWN McCARTHY
Ottawa The Canadian Alliance suffered another racism-related setback Sunday night when Winnipeg South Centre candidate Betty Granger resigned over her comments about an ”Asian invasion” of Canada.
Alliance Leader Stockwell Day - who had defended Ms. Granger earlier in the weekend - issued a release Sunday night saying he had accepted her resignation “with regret.”
In a letter to Mr. Day released by the party, Ms. Granger - who was running in the riding vacated by former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy - said she felt her remarks had been misinterpreted but did not want the controversy to hurt the party. “After much reflection and painful soul searching, I hereby tender my resignation as the Canadian Alliance candidate for Winnipeg South Centre,” Ms. Granger said in the letter.
“While I have apologized for my misinterpreted comments made at the University of Winnipeg, I felt that the party would be better served if I stepped down at this time.”
Alliance spokesman Phil von Finckenstein said late Sunday night that her resignation should not be seen as an Alliance admission of guilt.
Mr. von Finckenstein said it was her decision to resign, but it would no doubt be too late to have the actual ballots changed. “I believe she'll still be on the ballot, but she's officially resigned as a candidate.”
Ms. Granger had been a panelist at a University of Winnipeg forum Thursday when she made disparaging remarks about Asian immigrants. She said she was troubled by the country's immigration system, including immigrants in Toronto who support Tamil terrorists and an influx of Asians on the West Coast.
She also suggested refugee boat people are likely to be involved in crime in Canada. “I call it the Asian invasion ... the Asian students that have come over to Canada have pressured the university system,” she said.
She also referred to “boat people” who came to Canada from Hong Kong. “This is problematic not only for immigration, but also for justice issues because there was a realization that what was coming off these boats was not the best clientele you would want for this country.”
Hundreds of Chinese came to Canada by boat last year seeking refugee status, but they were from mainland China, not Hong Kong. Hong Kong was handed over to China in the summer of 1997.
Mr. Day supported Ms. Granger on Saturday, saying she had “clarified the misinterpretation” of her remarks. He added that Canadian Alliance policy supports the equality of all Canadians. The Alliance Leader also released the party's immigration policy, which promised to crack down on refugee claimants and other immigrants who enter the country illegally, but welcome the highly-skilled and family-class immigrants.
The party's candidate in Calgary Centre, Eric Lowther, caused a storm earlier in the campaign when he suggested the party might allow a referendum to set immigration levels.
The Alliance Leader has insisted his party is open to immigrants and members of all ethnic groups, noting it has candidates from the Jewish, Chinese, Sikh and Muslim communities.
However, Ken Wong, of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association, said he was “very upset” by Ms. Granger's remarks. “This is the kind of people the Alliance attracts,” Mr. Wong said.
The Alliance Leader spent much of last week battling charges that the party harbours racist and anti-immigrant supporters. At a campaign stop in Brandon, Man., aboriginal demonstrators barged into a restaurant where Mr. Day was giving a speech and protested his party's plan to strip on-reserve Indians of some of their treaty rights, including their tax-exempt status.
Earlier in the week, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan accused the Alliance of harbouring supporters who are racist and bigoted.
Ms. Caplan referred to a rally planned by Victoria lawyer Douglas Christie, a defender of a Holocaust denier, suggesting the rally was meant to support Mr. Day. The Alliance Leader reacted angrily to that charge, saying the Alliance had nothing to do with Mr. Christie or his rally. He resigned last year.
With a report from Heather Scoffield in Saint John.