A BC Liberal leadership candidate has fired one of his campaign staffers, who was accused of verbally harassing another candidate’s campaign leader last week.
Diamond Isinger, campaign manager for Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, said she had an “unexpected onslaught” with four members of the Kevin Falcon team on Oct. 29.
The incident, which included sexual comments and sexually suggestive jokes at her expense, left her “in tears”, she tweeted Sunday afternoon.
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“At the worst time, I was subjected to misogynistic slander and profane insults while being shouted at for 15+ minutes,” she wrote of the meeting in downtown Vancouver.
“Despite trying to resolve this issue privately, I have no choice but to share this publicly to encourage accountability, due to the lack of action – without apologies or consequences in the two days since this happened.”
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Sunday, Falcon, a former provincial minister, tweeted he was “deeply concerned” by the allegations and asked his campaign chairman to bring in an independent third party to conduct an investigation.
On Monday, he tweeted that he had chatted with Isinger and apologized for the behavior of his campaign team members – especially the actions of a single person.
“We have since spoken to that member, and based on the conversation, there was sufficient recognition of Diamond’s account, and I have ended the relationship between him and my campaign team.”
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According to Isinger’s statement on Twitter, she was in a “busy public place” last Friday when a member of the Falcons team called her extremely profane names “at the highest level.”
He accused her of ruining their night and insisted that she shake his hand to reconcile.
“When I refused to do so, he mocked me again,” she wrote. “Others at the table let it go on for a long time while I broke down in tears and cried openly.”
Isinger said she repeatedly tried to “defend” herself, and eventually others at the table tried to de-escalate the situation by encouraging the employee to “go for a walk.”
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Other patrons watched the confrontation unfold, and a server asked Isinger if she needed help, she said.
Eventually, the group of five – four of whom were on Falcon’s campaign team – chose to pay another visit somewhere else, “and left me there alone, desperate, without worrying about my well-being,” she wrote.
She said the verbal attack is symptomatic of a “dangerous culture of bad behavior among individuals (mostly men) who are not afraid of consequences.”
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Since the disturbing incident, other aspiring BC Liberal leaders have issued statements of support to Isinger.
Renee Merrifield, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, said she was “crazy” and proud of Diamond for standing out.
“By doing so, she stands up against all misogyny, chauvinism and discrimination,” Merrifield said tweeted.
“Silence is complicity. I do not want to keep quiet or keep secrets. I stand with Diamond.”
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Gavin Dew, a first-time political candidate and career counselor, called Falcon team members’ behavior “BS” and said “this happens to women every day.”
Val Litwin, a former CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce and a novice political candidate, issued a video statement on Twitter. In it, he said, “It’s time to say goodbye to misogyny, bullying, outcry and discrimination,” and urged Falcon to demand that employees resign their party membership.
Even former BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark weighed in on social media.
Responds to Isinger’s tweet Sunday, she said she was “completely disgusted” by the alleged behavior, “but also encouraged” by Isinger’s decision to speak out.
“I’m so sorry it happened to you. By saying no, you’re helping to create change,” Clark wrote.
“We know it could just as easily have been any of us. Thank you for your courage. “
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Lee, who launched his leadership bid in June, thanked his colleagues in the BC Liberal for supporting Isinger and said the party will continue to utter such a misdemeanor.
“This is part of a pattern of behavior from at least a few members of our party, an issue that also affects many other political parties in BC and Canada,” he wrote in a statement Monday.
Lee called on the party to implement a code of conduct that “ensures respectful behavior from everyone involved in our reconstruction process.” He also asked BC Liberal to appoint a Complaints Officer to act as a confidential, respectful liaison regardless of any influence on leadership campaigns.
“All major federal parties, including Canada’s Conservative Party and Canada’s Liberal Party, have developed their own behavioral policies,” he explained.
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In his statement Monday, Falcon said he intends to continue with a third-party investigation into what happened, and he expects “full cooperation from everyone involved.”
“The incident that Diamond has presented is reprehensible and wrong,” he said. “Unfortunately, these incidents are far too common, and I commend Diamond for speaking on behalf of herself and all the women who have experienced these encounters.”
He hopes to work together, he added, to ensure that women are never exposed to “this type of toxic behavior” again.
A new party leader will be elected on February 5, 2022.
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