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Canadian News Sep 21, 2021 1:49 PM EST

Dropped Trudeau Liberal candidate wins seat despite dismissed sexual assault charge

With 128 of 129 polls reporting, former Trudeau Liberal candidate Kevin Vuong leads with 37.9 percent of the vote. He is set to win a tight race in the central Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York.

Dropped Trudeau Liberal candidate wins seat despite dismissed sexual assault charge
Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary, AB

Former Trudeau Liberal candidate Kevin Vuong is set to win a tight race in the central Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York after the party turfed him days before the election over a dismissed sexual assault charge.

With 128 of 129 polls reporting, Vuong leads with 37.9 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Norm di Pasquale, the NDP candidate and a Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee, reported CP24. The riding was too close to call last night after long lineups kept many voting locations open past 930 pm when polls officially closed in Ontario.

Days before the election, Vuong, a naval reservist and business owner, the Trudeau Liberals learned that the candidate faced a sexual assault charge in 2019 that was later dropped by the Crown.

Spadina-Fort York was last held by former Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who handily won the riding with 55 percent of the vote in 2019 but announced last month that he would not be seeking re-election.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, who previously campaigned for Vuong, said the former Liberal should "examine his conscience" and step aside.

"I don't think Kevin can responsibly serve in the capacity as an MP for that community, given the circumstances of the allegation, so I do hope that he does the right thing," said Del Duca.

Vuong has not spoken publicly since the election results came in, but he will need to sit as an independent if he decides to take the job in Ottawa.

Trudeau confirmed that if elected, Vuong would not be part of his caucus.

Following news of the allegation, Trudeau said, "We are a party that always takes seriously any allegations or reports of sexual harassment or intimidation or assault. That has been clear from the very beginning."

Trudeau said he had learned about these serious allegations Thursday through the Star, promising to look "very carefully" into the matter. The party then asked Vuong to "pause" his campaign.

The Trudeau Liberals said they had no knowledge of the charge and vowed to improve the candidate vetting process in the future.

On Saturday, Trudeau was on the defensive again, stating his party had taken swift action when they realized the situation.

"We followed the processes that are in place in the party to ascertain and look into this,” he said, "and we've concluded that [Vuong] can no longer be a Liberal candidate in this election."

"It is a difficult but important thing to do because it's the right thing to do."

When questioned on the candidate vetting processes for elections, Trudeau said they are constantly reviewing and improving the vetting process.

"I'll be honest with you. We don't want to be in situations like this again," he said.

The woman implicated in the alleged sexual assault previously confirmed with Global News she had been on several dates with Vuong after matching on a dating app in February. She claimed the alleged assault happened on April 8, when he came over to her residence to watch a movie.

Shortly after falling asleep, the woman said she woke up to what felt like "somebody touching me, and I felt something tickling my neck."  

"I kept my eyes closed from the moment I woke up just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and I wanted to be sure what was going on,” she said.

"When it happened, I was taken back because I think it was one thing. If I was awake and he tried to make advancements, I would have shut it down. We wouldn’t even be here. But the fact of the matter is that I was asleep, I was unconscious, and I couldn’t consent to something," she added.

Vuong, who has denied the allegations against him, still appeared on the ballot as the Liberals said it was too late to remove him. He told the Star that he finds the claims "deeply troubling," having resurfaced so close to the federal election.

Vuong previously told the press he "vigorously fought" the allegations in Court when they were first brought forward.

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