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Trudeau Liberals drop second Ontario candidate over past sexual assault charge

After dodging questions about Spadina-Fort York candidate Kevin Vuong, the Trudeau Liberals announced Saturday morning they asked him to "pause" his campaign over a past sexual assault charge.

Adam Dobrer Vancouver

After dodging questions about Spadina-Fort York candidate Kevin Vuong Friday, the Trudeau Liberals announced Saturday morning they asked him to "pause" his campaign after The Toronto Star first reported on a past sexual assault charge that was later withdrawn.

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on the defensive again Saturday, stating his party had taken swift action when they became aware of 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."

Trudeau was also questioned again on the candidate vetting processes for elections, saying that "[The Liberal Party] are constantly reviewing and improving the [vetting] process, because, I'll be honest with you, we don't want to be in situations like this again" he said.

At the time of writing, the surfacing of the allegation prompted a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) review against Vuong — who is also a naval reservist — for failing to notify the military of the charges against him, according to Department of Defense spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier.

Bouthillier added the CAF is reviewing its next course of action, which could be "administrative" in nature.

Though dropped by the Trudeau Liberals, Vuong told the press he wanted to "unequivocally state that these allegations are false" and that he "vigorously fought" them in Court when they were first brought forward. He also questioned the timing of the allegations resurfacing so close to the conclusion of the election campaign.

"Had they not been withdrawn, I would have continued to defend myself against these false allegations," read Vuong's statement. "This resurfacing three days before the election is deeply troubling to my family and me."

Asked about the issue at a campaign event Saturday, New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau of a "pattern of behaviour that has put women at risk," noting that the Liberal Party took "two days to decide on a Toronto candidate.... that shouldn't have taken twenty minutes."  The Conservatives also called for Vuong to be dropped as a candidate Friday.

This is the second Liberal candidate to be dropped for issues of sexual misconduct this election cycle after Kitchener-Centre incumbent Raj Saini was removed from the ballot early September.

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