Oakville mayor apologizes for comparing Harper's private security with Hitler's
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Saturday, August 29, 2015 1:03PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 29, 2015 6:13PM EDT
The mayor of Oakville has issued an apology to Canadian veterans after making comments on Twitter that appeared to compare Stephen Harper’s campaign security team to the militias that served dictators Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
“I apologize without reservation to all vets for my remarks and furthermore I regret any impact on their feelings or their pride or their stature,” Rob Burton said in an interview with CTV News Saturday afternoon. “I celebrate the way they went to fight for freedom.”
He also posted the apology to Twitter.
Burton took to Twitter on Friday night to post a link to a story about Harper’s decision to enlist the help of Canadian veterans for extra security on the campaign trail, in addition to the security already provided by the Mounties assigned to protect the Prime Minister.
Burton then posted a subsequent tweet in which he attached Wikipedia links to Hitler’s SA and Mussolini’s Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale and asked “Any political parties had private police using veterans before? Any others?”
Within hours of posting that tweet, #ResignMayorBurton was trending across Toronto and the Oakville mayor was being inundated with messages slamming him for comparing Canadian veterans with Nazi’s and calling for his resignation.
Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney also weighed in, asking Burton to apologize in a series of tweets.
Meanwhile, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt criticized Burton for his use of the word "mercenaries" in his initial tweet.
"I gather respect for Canadian veterans only goes so far with some Liberals. A real disgrace to call them mercenaries," she wrote on Twitter.
Speaking with CP24 on Saturday afternoon, Burton said he never intended to suggest that the veterans who provide security for Harper are similar to the ones who worked for Hitler and Mussolini.
In fact, Burton said his tweet was solely about the practice of a head of government using private security.
“I am not associating Canada’s veterans with anything. That’s what the Conservatives would like this to be about but this is about what a political party is doing and not who they are using to do it,” he said. “We are sliding down a slippery slope here where private police details are being used to undermine the rule of law in Canada.”
The Canadian Press story that Burton initially shared with his 8,667 followers outlined how Corps of Commissionaires security guards have been used to augment Harper’s security while on the campaign trail, making specific mention of a recent incident in Markham in which one of the guards, a former sniper with the Canadian Forces, was called in to remove a man who had wanted to ask the Prime Minister a question.
Discussing the furor over his remarks on Saturday, Burton initially said he would not apologize.
“This political party is doing something that I don’t think fits the Canadian way. It has been seen before in the world and not in very nice places,” he said. “Jason Kenney should apologize to the Canadian people for this undermining of the rule of law.”
In his later interview Saturday, Burton reiterated that his chief concern was the use of private security details instead of police officers who are familiar with the laws and rights of the public, but said it was never his intention to impugn veterans.
“It was not my intention ever to compare veterans to Nazis,” he said.
He added that despite the calls on social media for him to step down, he has no plans to do so.
Harper has not responded to Burton's comments, however a spokesperson with the Conservative Party of Canada did issue a statement on behalf of the party on Saturday, noting that the "disparaging comments about Canadian veterans speak for themselves."