Conservatives condemn racist conspiracy theory, attack each other over Buffalo shooting

Leadership candidates and the interim leader of the Conservative Party are condemning the racist "white replacement theory" that's believed to have inspired the alleged killer in Saturday's Buffalo, N.Y. mass shooting — but there's discord in the party about how that condemnation came about.

Poilievre, Brown trade accusations in response to Buffalo, N.Y. mass shooting

Conservative leadership candidates Patrick Brown, left, and Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre is accusing Brown of a 'sleazy' use of the Buffalo mass shooting and Brown's campaign is questioning why Poilievre and other Conservatives didn't condemn the racially-motivated killings sooner. (The Canadian Press)

Leadership candidates and the interim leader of the Conservative Party are condemning the racist "white replacement theory" that allegedly inspired Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.

But there is still discord in the party about how that condemnation came about — with Pierre Poilievre accusing leadership rival Patrick Brown of a "sleazy" use of an atrocity and with Brown's campaign questioning why Poilievre and other Conservatives didn't condemn the killings sooner.

It's been a particularly ugly moment in an already heated leadership race.

"It shouldn't take us time to come out and emphatically stand up for what's right," said Michelle Rempel Garner, co-chair of Brown's leadership campaign.

"Those moments of hesitation, frankly, I think they're very detrimental to Canada's pluralism. I just think our party needs to do a better job of immediately condemning this type of murderous ideology."

Saturday's shooting left 10 people dead and has been described by authorities as "racially motivated violent extremism." Most of the people killed were Black and the 18-year-old shooter reportedly left a lengthy manifesto espousing the idea that whites were being replaced by non-whites — a racist conspiracy theory known as "white replacement theory."

Brown prompts Poilievre

Disagreement among Conservatives sparked by the deaths went public on Sunday when Brown tweeted out a 2019 video of Pat King, one of the key figures behind the protest convoy that occupied downtown Ottawa in February. In it, King discusses the idea that white people are being deliberately replaced.

Brown noted that the racist theory reportedly was part of the shooter's manifesto and called on Poilievre — who has been vocally supportive of convoy protesters — to do the same.

Rempel Garner then tweeted that such racist propaganda must be denounced from every corner of every political party and said those who give space to such "treasonous" content are complicit.

"Pat King stood in the convoy and Pat King stood for this. We have to purge our own tents of hate, in all forms, or Buffalo happens," she wrote.

Poilievre levels accusation of 'sleazy' behaviour

On Monday afternoon, Poilievre's campaign released a statement denouncing both the attack in Buffalo and King.

"I condemn the attack in Buffalo and the ugly racist hatred that motivated it. Any and all racism is evil and must be stopped. I also denounce the so-called 'white replacement theory' as ugly and disgusting hate mongering. I also condemn Pat King and his ugly remarks," the statement reads.

Poilievre went on to question Brown's motives.

"For Patrick Brown to use this atrocity is sleazy — even for him."

Poilievre said he supports peaceful and law-abiding truckers who protested for their livelihoods but denounced anyone who "broke laws, behaved badly or blocked critical infrastructure."

He added that those who engage in racism are personally responsible for their behaviour.

Asked about Poilievre's statement, Rempel Garner said the killings should compel someone in a leadership role like Poilievre to "rise to the moment." She said it would be up to Canadians to decide whether he had done so.

Tory leader, Commons condemn racism

Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen also issued a condemnation Monday afternoon.

"Racism is repugnant to our values as Canadians, and it has no place in our country or in the Conservative Party. The 'white-replacement' conspiracy theory is peddled by racists and bigots. Conservatives unequivocally condemn this kind of thinking," said Bergen's statement.

She also seemed to draw a line on behaviour by protesters, such as those in the Ottawa convoy.

"[W]hile Canadians are free to protest and demonstrate, that does not include illegally blocking or occupying infrastructure, nor does it include illegal hate-speech," said Bergen's statement.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino condemned the shooting in a scrum Monday and said that Canada is not immune to hatred and racism.

WATCH Public safety minister reacts to Buffalo shooting

Public safety minister reacts to Buffalo shooting

2 years ago
Duration 1:00
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino discusses the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. that killed ten people.

"We have seen in the past that shootings have stemmed from hatred and acts of racism, for example, at the Quebec City mosque shooting," he said.

"We have to do more to eliminate gun violence, and we also have to do more to eradicate racism, which has no place in our society."

The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion Monday which expressed horror at the shooting, extended condolences to loved ones of the victims and reaffirmed the need to oppose racism and white supremacy. The chamber also held a moment of silence in memory of the victims.

With files from Richard Raycraft.