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Estonian group calls for removal of Sydney-Victoria candidate

The Estonian Central Council in Canada is calling on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to remove Sydney-Victoria candidate Jaime Battiste.
The Estonian Central Council in Canada is calling on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to remove Sydney-Victoria candidate Jaime Battiste. - Contributed
SYDNEY, N.S. —

Members of the country’s Estonian community are calling for the removal of a Liberal candidate in Cape Breton for wearing what they say is a symbol of tyranny.

In a 2016 Instagram picture, Jaime Battiste can be seen at the gym wearing a shirt with a hammer and sickle — a symbol known to represent communism in Russia.

The post features a hashtag for Red Army hockey, a recreational men's hockey team in Eskasoni.

"Mr. Battiste's social media post is hurtful and it still is not clear that he recognizes this,” said Paul Laanemets, the Estonian Central Council representative for Eastern Canada.

“Many, including my own family, were welcomed to Canada on the shores of Nova Scotia after fleeing Soviet terror. It is hurtful to our community and the millions of other Canadians whose families fled the Red Army's occupying forces."

Many council members had relatives and friends who were murdered and deported to gulags under the same Soviet regime. The group is now asking for the Liberal party to remove Battiste from the federal ballot.

The Mi’kmaq law graduate, who lives in Eskasoni First Nation, has also spoken positively of socialism and wrote tweets that were considered homophobic, sexist and racist in nature.

“Socialism is not looking so bad anymore,” Battiste wrote in a post sharing a YouTube video about wealth inequality.

The Toronto Sun first reported on the tweets, which mostly date back to 2012 and 2013.

Battiste, who could become Nova Scotia’s first Indigenous MP, later told reporters that he was undergoing personal issues at the time of the tweets, which have since been deleted.

"Mr. Battiste's social media post is hurtful and it still is not clear that he recognizes this” — Paul Laanemets, the Estonian Central Council representative for Eastern Canada.

The 40-year-old said the postings were “crude jokes” made during a “time of heartbreak and depression — and that’s not a good time to use humour.”

But the apology is not enough for Laanemets whose grandfather came to Cape Breton's shoreline in 1948 as one of nearly 350 refugees aboard a former minesweeper.

"The Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau said they support the National Memorial to Victims of Communism, but standing by this candidate is inconsistent with that commitment," Laanemets said.

Although Battiste’s comments were deemed unacceptable, Trudeau has since accepted his apology.

Political critics, however, pointed out that it's now far too late to switch Battiste for another Liberal hopeful.

Battiste spent most of the day Thursday campaigning in the northern areas of Cape Breton and did not respond to an interview request made through his campaign office.

This fall commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Great Flight of Estonian Refugees when nearly 100,000 Estonians fled the Red Army’s occupying forces whose repression and bloody terror were committed under the banner of the same symbol worn by Battiste on social media.

The council says no political party should have a candidate representing them with such a track record of offensive behaviour.

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