Candidates should be cautious about online posts, says prof

A University of Victoria professor is warning candidates to be cautious about what they post online.

A University of Victoria professor is warning candidates to be cautious about what they post online after two Island Liberal candidates withdrew from the federal election in the last few weeks for inappropriate comments made on social media.

Last week, Victoria Liberal candidate Cheryl Thomas resigned after comments made about the Jewish and Muslim communities resurfaced on a satirical website, Truth North Times.

Thomas, who worked in the Middle East, posted on Facebook in 2014 saying “the oppressed of the Warsaw ghettos and the concentration camps have become the oppressors, keeping the Palestinians who are left in their “homeland” in ghettoes.”

In 2013, she said mosques are being used as brainwashing stations.

Thomas has since apologized for the comments, stating they are “offensive and have no place in our political discourse.”

“I want to apologize particularly to the Jewish and Muslim communities for these insensitive statements,” she wrote in a statement on her campaign page.

According to Janni Aragon, assistant professor in the department of political science and the director of technology integrated learning, Thomas made the right decision to step down.

“Her comments were very problematic,” she said, adding parties need to vet candidates more closely.

“If you’re running for office, you’re now saying that you’re a public person and you make yourself vulnerable to people researching you and your digital footprint.”

A few days earlier, Liberal candidate Maria Manna running in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding also resigned after expressing skepticism about the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

Aragon said candidates need to be more mindful of what they comment on, post or retweet.

“People want to know if they can trust you, what’s your judgement like,” she said, adding in the age of social media, candidates must continue with traditional campaign methods such as door knocking, but should also have a strong social media presence.

“Candidates need to be smarter. It’s unfortunate that she  made these comments, but the fact that people could go and find them is an issue as well.”

Thomas’ resignations means there will be no Liberal candidate running in the Victoria riding, since the deadline for candidates to enter the race set out by Elections Canada has passed.

Her name will still appear on the ballot on the Oct. 19 election, even though she isn’t running.