A Downtown Toronto Liberal candidate has been asked by the federal party to “pause” his election campaign as officials review the circumstances surrounding the Crown’s decision to drop the sexual assault charge in 2019.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was pressed by reporters about the matter on Friday morning after news emerged that Spadina-Fort York candidate Kevin Vuong had been charged with alleged sexual assault on April 8, 2019.
“This is a situation that we are taking very seriously and looking into,” he said while campaigning in Windsor, Ont., when asked how the party didn’t know about the incident and called Woong. Why was he not expelled from the party?
“We have questions about it, we have questions about what really happened, we’re looking too fast, and in the meantime we’ve asked the candidate to stop his campaign.”
Canada’s military has received more than 700 sexual assault reports since 2016, data shows
Trudeau told reporters that party officials were not aware of the dropped charge until Thursday, when he was contacted by the Toronto Star, the first news outlet to report on the incident.
In a story published Thursday evening, the outlet reported speaking to the woman cited in court documents, who said she did not know Wong was running in the election. She told the newspaper that she had recently returned from a trip and saw her picture on election signs in the ride.
The woman told Star that she and Wong had gone on several dates after meeting on an app in 2019, and on April 8 he reportedly went to her house where they went to bed and watched a movie before falling asleep. She told the outlet that she woke up and Wong touched her, causing confusion.
The story goes that she went to a bathroom and closed the door, calling a friend for help. The friend, who allegedly showed screenshots of text messages from that night, asked Vuong to leave the apartment, which he did without further incident.
As of Friday afternoon, Granthshala News was not able to contact the woman to independently verify the allegations contained in the star’s reporting.
Timeline: Canadian Forces Sexual Misconduct Crisis
Granthshala News contacted Woong and his representatives several times for comment on this story Thursday evening and Friday morning, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
However, Starr reported receiving a statement from Vuong, where he “clearly stated (d) that these allegations are false” and that he “vetted vigorously” the case in court. The case was dropped at the end of November 2019. It was also reported that he had not addressed the allegations in that statement.
Citing court transcripts, the newspaper cited Crown Prosecutor Lewis Collins, who said the complainant had “many personal issues going on right now” and after re-reviewing the case it “determined Gone that it would not be in public interest. Further.”
The woman told the star she “didn’t have the energy” to go through trial after being sexually assaulted as a child by court proceedings, calling Wong to seek counseling or therapy. She said she didn’t know the charge against Wong had been dropped.
Vuong, who describes himself as an entrepreneur, lecturer and Navy mentor, previously made an unsuccessful bid for Toronto city council in 2018. After Adam Vaughan announced that he was not seeking re-election, he was nominated to run for the Liberals.
The news came days after advance voting ended and more than two weeks after Election Canada’s deadline to turn voting on or off.
Throughout the election campaign, liberals have been facing questions over alleged sexual misconduct, such as Raj Saini, the party’s former candidate at the Kitchener Center. The MP ended his re-election campaign after allegations of harassing a former staff member, whom Saini had earlier called “outrageous” and “liar”.
During a campaign stop in Sherbrooke, Ky., NDP leader Jagmeet Singh began his remarks by addressing the allegations involving Woong, before calling for increased action to protect women and sexual assault survivors.
He said, “It is very painful when we see a pattern of behavior with the Liberal Party, that they do not have the courage to compete with men in positions of power, that they allow candidates to come forward and act. Don’t give,” he also said. Referencing cases of sexual assault and misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“There’s a question that Canadians want to know: either this candidate in Toronto lied to the Liberal Party and the Liberal Party is okay with it or the Liberal Party already knew that and Mr. Trudeau is fine with it. Either way Well, it’s terrible.”
more to come.