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Controversies over Islamophobia dog Canada’s conservatives

September 11, 2021 GMT
Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, left, and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau discuss a point during the federal election French-language leaders debate, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Gatineau, Quebec. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, left, and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau discuss a point during the federal election French-language leaders debate, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Gatineau, Quebec. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, left, and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau discuss a point during the federal election French-language leaders debate, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Gatineau, Quebec. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — Candidate controversies over vaccines and Islamophobia dogged the leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative party on Saturday ahead of the Sept. 20 election.

A Conservative candidate in Nova Scotia apologized for social media posts that weighed in on sharia law and backed banning the burqa worn by some Muslim women. And on Friday the Conservative party confirmed they had dumped Beaches-East York candidate in Toronto after the riding’s Liberal incumbent, Nate Erskine-Smith, highlighted Islamophobic tweets from 2017.

“We’re running a positive campaign based on bringing the country together and getting the country back on its feet from an economic point of view. And I want people on my team to share that,” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said Saturday.

O’Toole also appeared to give tacit approval for Conservative candidates who are not fully vaccinated to campaign in retirement residences, so long as they abide by public health measures. The question came up after Conservative candidate for Peterborough-Kawartha, Michelle Ferreri, posted photos of herself to social media canvassing in a seniors’ residence despite having received only one shot.

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O’Toole won’t say how many of his candidates are unvaccinated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said all his have been vaccinated except one who received a medical exemption.

Trudeau called the vote last month hoping to win a majority of seats in Parliament, but polls show a tight race.

O’Toole, 48, won the leadership of the Conservative party last year by advertising himself as a “true blue conservative” and promising to “take back Canada.” He campaigned on the right but has since adopted more moderate positions.