Liberal candidate who paused campaign under review by military over dropped sex assault charge

Toronto

Toronto Liberal candidate, Kevin Vuong, a naval reservist who is on pause from campaigning in the federal election over a past sexual assault charge that was dropped, is also now under review by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Toronto candidate Kevin Vuong, who Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has asked to 'pause his campaign' after reports the Spadina-Fort York candidate had been previously charged with sexual assault — a charge that was later dropped.(Kevin Vuong/Twitter)

Toronto Liberal candidate Kevin Vuong, who is on pause from campaigning in the federal election over a past sexual assault charge that was dropped, is also now under review by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Defence Department spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed that, based on available information at this time, Vuong, who is also a naval reservist, failed to notify the military in 2019 about the arrest.

Military members are required to share criminal charges with their chain of command. The military is deliberating what steps to take next, and they could be administrative in nature, said Le Bouthillier.

The news of the dropped 2019 sexual assault charge were first reported by the Toronto Star. The navy learned about the case from the Star story, the Defence Department said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Friday his party also only learned of the allegations Thursday from the Star's report. He called the allegations "serious."

Trudeau was asked if Vuong would be allowed to sit as an MP if he wins his riding of Spadina-Fort York.

"We are looking into it very carefully and we have asked the candidate to pause his campaign," Trudeau replied.

In a statement issued to CBC News through his campaign manager, Vuong said he wanted to "unequivocally state that these allegations are false" and that he "vigorously fought" them when they were first brought forward.

"Had they not been withdrawn, I would have continued to defend myself against these false allegations," Vuong said.

"This re-surfacing three days before the election is deeply troubling to me and my family."

The Conservatives released a statement Friday calling on the party to immediately drop Vuong as a candidate.

New Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh also weighed in, saying either Vuong "lied" to the Liberals about the allegations against him or the party knew and allowed him to run anyway.

With the candidate nomination process now closed, parties aren't allowed to replace candidates who withdraw or are kicked out of the running. If Vuong is booted from the campaign, the Liberals won't have a candidate in Spadina-Fort York.

The riding was created by the 2012 federal electoral boundaries redistribution and came into effect in the 2015 election, when it was won by Liberal Adam Vaughan — the only person to hold the riding so far.

A campaign sign for Vuong. 'This re-surfacing three days before the election is deeply troubling to me and my family,' Vuong said, calling the allegations against him false.(Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Formed from parts of Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre, the riding is one of five in the Greater Toronto Area where an incumbent MP isn't running again.

Trinity-Spadina has flipped back and forth between the New Democrats and Liberals since the 1980s. Olivia Chow held the riding for the NDP from 2006 to 2014, before Vaughan took it over in a federal by-election in 2014 after Chow resigned.

This year's election is Vuong's first federal run.

Controversy earlier in campaign over candidate Raj Saini

Earlier this campaign, the Liberals also faced questions about why the party allowed Raj Saini, the candidate for Kitchener Centre, to run in the election despite a series of allegations of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments, which were made public in a CBC News report.

Saini denies all the allegations but earlier this month announced he was ending his campaign for re-election. Trudeau defended Saini for days on the campaign trail but then reversed course. The Liberal Party said it received new information and Saini would no longer be a Liberal candidate.

Saini's name remains on the ballot, and he has not confirmed whether or nor he will sit as an independent if re-elected.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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