Post-election disappointment has finally seemed to settle down here in Toronto and across Canada, but one lasting repercussion of another disappointing election is still refusing to resolve itself — the ethically contentious election of current Spadina—Fort York MP Kevin Vuong.
I volunteered with Vuong’s opponent Norm Di Pasquale, the former NDP candidate for Spadina—Fort York. However, with the election being over, my opposition to Vuong goes beyond differences in political ideology — it’s a matter of ethics and Vuong’s lack of accountability.
Vuong was formerly the Liberal Party candidate for Spadina—Fort York, but a report of alleged sexual misconduct led the Liberal Party to drop Vuong’s candidacy mere days before the election. Unfortunately, his name was still printed as the Liberal candidate on the ballot. Although this was horrendous enough, Vuong’s self-admitted “lack of disclosure” goes far beyond a simple one-off issue, and his actions as of late seem to point toward a pattern of avoiding responsibility and general moral flexibility.
As reported by the CBC and the Toronto Star, court documents now confirm that Vuong was charged with one count of sexual assault by Crown prosecutors in front of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General in 2019. This charge was later dropped by Crown prosecutors, but this goes beyond whether he is guilty or innocent; the fact that such an allegation has resurfaced and Vuong has repeatedly failed to take responsibility for it reasonably casts doubt on his honesty and character.
The Liberal Party’s vetting process for prospective candidates explicitly asks whether a potential candidate has been criminally charged in the past, along with whether anything in their past in general could embarrass the candidate or the party at large. Vuong did not disclose anything during that vetting process.
Vuong is also a naval reservist with the Royal Canadian Navy, where similar disclosure processes are required, including sharing criminal charges with the chain of command. He allegedly did not disclose anything — which should not come as a surprise. In a way, this is even worse, since it comes at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces is in the middle of a sexual assault crisis in all of its three branches and high-level officials have allegedly done similar actions to Vuong’s.
If Vuong is found not to have disclosed the criminal charge, he does not deserve the honour of naming himself a member of the Royal Canadian Navy. He lied by omission in order to continue securing for himself a position of great honour as a member of our nation’s military forces, and that is unacceptable.
But, most importantly, Vuong does not deserve the high honour of being a federal representative of the people of Spadina—Fort York or of this city. He misled the volunteers that dedicated their time to him and to the Liberal cause, he misled voters at the ballot box, and he misled the people of Spadina—Fort York. Vuong keeps on releasing — and then deleting — statements “[apologizing] for the lack of disclosure” and alleging that he will “work hard to earn [voters’] trust,” pledging to address these allegations “at a later date… in a dedicated forum.”
Meanwhile, all previous statements have been deleted from his Twitter, and the CBC has reported that Vuong is not returning any communications from constituents or journalists. He’s definitely not making the effort to actively apologize, nor is he making any effort to secure the trust of his constituents. He should be ashamed of himself in that regard alone, even ignoring the fact that he lied by omission to his supporters, Liberal partisans in Spadina—Fort York, his constituents in general, and, perhaps most upsettingly, the fact that he allegedly lied to remain a member of our honourable military forces.
As it stands now, a former campaign staffer has expressed uncertainty on the question of whether Vuong has even been sworn in, and it remains unclear if Vuong attended the orientation for new MPs on September 27. This forum that Vuong alleges he is preparing to dedicate to the aforementioned allegations has not been announced.
Some people may be wondering: why make all this noise over one dropped sexual assault allegation? While that attitude is definitely a problem on its own — and I will always believe the victim of a sexual assault allegation unless shown that it’s false — the main problem is Vuong’s continued lack of disclosure and honesty. In my humble opinion, Kevin Vuong knew that he would not have a chance at high office anywhere in this country, province, or city if he disclosed that charge, and he knowingly didn’t disclose for that reason.
We do not need more morally flexible politicians than we already have in this world, and, after all of the uncertainty and lying during this morally illegitimate election in Spadina—Fort York, one thing remains clear in my mind.
Kevin Vuong needs to resign.
Logan Liut is a first-year social sciences student at University College.