Calgary Tory offers no apology for immigrant-crime comment

Calgary Tory offers no apology for immigrant-crime comment

Local Conservative incumbent Lee Richardson expressed regret Thursday – but offered no apology or resignation – for controversial comments he made suggesting immigrants are to blame for much of the crime in Canada.

By Calgary Herald September 25, 2008 Be the first to post a comment

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CALGARY – Local Conservative incumbent Lee Richardson expressed regret Thursday – but offered no apology or resignation – for controversial comments he made suggesting immigrants are to blame for much of the crime in Canada.

But opposition parties and leaders representing minority groups are demanding the Calgary Centre Tory candidate – whose riding population is almost one-quarter recent immigrants – immediately apologize and either resign or be turfed for his “disgraceful” remarks.

“(Stephen) Harper must fire this man right away,” Liberal Leader Stephane Dion told reporters on the campaign trail, suggesting the comments reek of “intolerance” he attributed to the former Reform party.

“He cannot be a candidate anymore.”

The remarks were denounced by police officials, criminologists and immigrant aid groups, who noted there’s no data suggesting immigrants are to blame for a disproportionate amount of crime either in Calgary or across Canada.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper – who already has been knocked off-message a few times this campaign by candidates making inappropriate comments – could face the fallout at a campaign event Friday in Calgary.

“Mr. Richardson has clarified his remarks, and from our perspective the matter is over,” said Kory Teneycke, Harper’s chief spokesman.

The political firestorm stems from an interview with a Calgary weekly newspaper published Thursday, in which Richardson is quoted as saying many crimes aren’t committed by people who “grew up next door” and that immigrants aren’t as law-abiding as the rest of the population.

“Particularly in big cities, we’ve got people that have grown up in a different culture, and they don’t have the same background in terms of the stable communities we had 20, 30 years ago in our cities . . . and don’t have the same respect for authority or people’s person or property,” Richardson told Fast Forward Weekly, when asked about recent gun violence in Calgary.

“Talk to the police. Look at who’s committing these crimes,” he added. “They’re not the kid that grew up next door.”

Richardson, who has represented the Calgary Centre riding since 2004, later noted in a follow-up interview he regretted the comments and that he misspoke.

In an interview Thursday with Herald columnist Don Braid, Richardson insisted his comments referred to recent gang violence in Calgary – not to all immigrants and all crime.

“I was thinking of the youth gangs in the cities – the people doing the shooting. The article made my views seem general about all immigrants and all crime,” Richardson said.

“Look, my office and my personal efforts are broadly known in the immigrant community in Calgary. I get the majority of immigration calls in the whole city, more than any other MP. We deal with them because we care and we have the expertise.”

In a statement released to all media, Richardson again expressed “regret” for the words he chose in discussing crime issues in Calgary, but didn’t offer an apology.

Doug King, a criminologist at Mount Royal College in Calgary, said it’s completely inappropriate to be making such “broad-brush statements” of immigrants and their involvement in crime.

“It’s intolerant and it’s naive,” he said. “And unfortunately, it can be used to spread hatred.”

King believes Calgary is turning into a bit of a “RoboCop community” where people are looking to blame others for the city’s crime and gang problems, when the real issue is a lack of resources needed to adequately address the issue.

Sgt. Bill Dodd of the Calgary Police Service diversity resources unit said the service doesn’t track statistics on where the city’s criminals hail from. His 16 years as a city cop, however, tells him immigrants shouldn’t be blamed for crime woes.

“My personal anecdotal experience is that criminals come from all sorts of ethnicities, all sorts of races, all sorts of cultural groups,” Dodd said.

Richardson’s challengers in Calgary Centre called for the Tory candidate to either resign or get the punt by the Conservative party.

“It’s completely irresponsible as a representative of the government,” said Liberal hopeful Heesung Kim, an immigrant from Korea who came to Canada as a young child.

“It’s a hurtful statement,” she added. “It’s not representative of Calgarians.”

NDP candidate Tyler Kinch also demanded that Richardson resign from the campaign, insisting Calgarians demand more out of their elected representatives.

“Mr. Richardson’s comments are hurtful, unfair, untrue and unproductive,” Kinch said. “The next MP in Calgary Centre must move us forward on immigration, not backward.”

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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