Pickering deputy mayor Kevin Ashe resigned from his post on Thursday after he admitted to travelling abroad to visit his son's ashes, CP24 reports.
Ashe did not disclose which country his son's ashes are located in, but noted that he died by suicide.
"In making this decision, I believed it was a necessary one for the mental well-being of our family. But I am also aware of how this appears, recognizing that we have all been urged to stay home in an effort to contain COVID-19," Ashe said.
He further apologized to mayor of Pickering and the city councilors for the trip.
Ashe is not the first politician to have travelled abroad for reasons related to dying or deceased relatives. NDP MP Niki Ashton was removed from her position as critic for Jobs, Employment and Workforce Development after it was revealed that she travelled abroad to visit her ailing grandmother.
While some have argued that the emotional burden justifies these sorts of trips, other have pointed out that many ordinary Canadians have been unable to host funerals or to visit their sick relatives as a result of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I also recognize that the pandemic and resulting social isolation have negatively impacted the mental health of many in our community. And as such, I fully accept the criticism of myself and my efforts to heal abroad, because your struggles over the past year, as well as your efforts to stay safe at home are not lost on me," Ashe said.
Ashe also resigned from the Durham Police Services Board, claiming he did not want to be a "distraction."
Ashe is not the only Pickering city councilor to have travelled abroad recently. His colleague, Bill McLean, also admitted on Thursday to having travelled to Costa Rica. He has not yet returned.
McLean, however, did not resign from his position, arguing that his trip was essential because he had "to finalize the construction of our eventual retirement home."
McLean further argued that it was "critical to be on site to finalize our project," but did not explain why.
He also defended his actions by stating that he "made sure to have the proper infrastructure in place" to represent his community from abroad. "I share these details not as an excuse, but instead to present the facts that led to my decision making," he said.