BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has issued an apology to NDP candidate Bowinn Ma.
The apology comes after the release of a video showing BC Liberal party candidates laughing at sexist and misogynistic comments made about Ma.
In a statement on Twitter, Wilkinson acknowledged that BC Liberal candidate for North Vancouver-Seymour, Jane Thornthwaite, apologized for her comments about Ma during a virtual “roast” of Ralph Sultan, MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, last month on a Zoom chat.
I’m not going to editorialize this.
Rather, I’d like to hear from women on how they feel about this clip.
— Mo Amir ॐ This is VANCOLOUR (@vancolour) October 11, 2020
“Bowinn is a very pretty lady and she knows she’s got ‘it’ and she knows how to get Ralph going and this is my roast part for Ralph,” says Thornthwaite, who also went on to state Ma was “cuddling” and “showing a little bit of cleavage” while sitting on a couch with Sultan during an event at Capilano University.
The video shows Thornthwaite’s fellow candidates, including party leader Andrew Wilkinson, laughing along.
Wilkinson said upon reflection “those comments were inappropriate, and it was right for Jane to apologize.”
I understand why many people are upset, and I continue to be committed to doing everything I can to make sure women are welcomed, encouraged, and treated with respect in politics and public life. 2/2
— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) October 11, 2020
“I want to apologize to [Bowinn Ma] as this never should have happened,” he said.
“I understand why many people are upset, and I continue to be committed to doing everything I can to make sure women are welcomed, encouraged, and treated with respect in politics and public life.”
On Sunday morning, Thornthwaite addressed the comments on Twitter.
“I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I’m one of them. So is Bowinn Ma. Ralph Sultan has the same respect and a soft spot for his fellow UBC engineer, and I made light of that at a roast. I have always and will always support more women in politics,” she stated.
Thornthwaite later Tweeted again stating the comments she made “fell flat and were inappropriate.”
I wish to add this. The comments I made at the roast for my colleague Ralph Sultan fell flat and were inappropriate. I unreservedly apologize for making these comments. I have reached out to Bowinn Ma to apologize to her directly as well. I commit to doing better moving forward.
— Jane Thornthwaite (@jthornthwaite) October 11, 2020
Ma also released her own statement responding to the incident on social media.
We need to be a province that enables young women to take on leadership roles without fear of sexism. British Columbians deserve better from their political leaders. pic.twitter.com/sE3MbnKbSZ
— Bowinn Ma (@BowinnMa) October 11, 2020
As a woman who has worked in male-dominated industries my entire life so far, I am sadly no stranger to casual sexism. Like many women in these situations, I found myself making choices about the way that I act, dress, or carry myself to avoid having sexist interpretations read into my interactions – interactions such as, for instance, deliberately speaking closely with an elder who is very hard of hearing.
It is a burden that women should not have to bear while they are simply trying to live their lives and do their jobs.The video of BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson watching on as a multi-term BC Liberal North Shore MLA sexualized my interactions with another multi-term BC Liberal North Shore MLA is a deeply uncomfortable characterization of my efforts to extend kindness across partisan lines. However, this is not about me.
Young women deserve a province that encourages them to take on leadership roles without fear of sexism. If we want more young women and people of colour to enter politics, we must commit to creating environments that respect them. The comments and reactions in that video do the exact opposite.