OLP asked to recuse chief counsel as more ‘racist’ posts emerge

By Sabrina Nanji September 30, 2020

The Ontario Liberal Party is facing calls to pull its chief legal counsel, Milton Chan, from an internal party investigation into allegations of discrimination and harassment. 

Sam Nami, former president of the U of T Scarborough Young Liberals, recently lodged a formal complaint with the party, alleging bullying and harassment by Max Rubin, a senior organizer working on ex-leadership contestant Kate Graham‘s campaign. 
In the complaint, obtained by Queen’s Park Today, Nami asks the party to remove Chan from the investigation. Chan is himself facing allegations that he deterred would-be BIPOC candidates from seeking nominations and made anti-Black statements on Facebook. 

“Due to the recent revelations of public racist remarks made by Milton Chan, chief counsel for the OLP, I request that he recuse himself from dealing with this complaint as I do not believe he is qualified to deal with the subject matter, nor to be objective,” Nami wrote. 

‘Milton doubled down’
Another Facebook post has emerged and called Chan’s objectivity into question. In it, Chan refers to Black Lives Matter TO’s actions as “tyranny” and “hijacking.” The post is from 2017, a year after Chan was investigated by then-premier Kathleen Wynne‘s office for earlier anti-Black comments he made on Facebook. 

“Milton doubled down on his words a year later,” said one senior Liberal organizer. “Four and a half years later he is still defending his words and lashing out at those who are offended.”  

In light of the second Facebook post, Operation Black Vote Canada — an advocacy group that works to elect more Black people to office — reiterated its call for all provincial parties to conduct an internal audit to make sure their processes are inclusive. 

“Where there is evidence of problems, it is the responsibility of the party to resolve it immediately,” OBVC said in a statement. “Parties have an obligation to ensure they do all they can to deal with racism at the party level.” 

Chan acknowledged the post, saying “I regret how I expressed my views.”

As for the ongoing investigation into Nami’s complaint, the OLP has retained outside counsel and the findings will be reported directly to the party president and campaign director for any further action. 

OLP won’t probe allegations against Chan
In the wake of allegations Chan deterred would-be BIPOC candidates in Toronto Centre, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca launched a third-party review of the party’s 2018 workplace harassment and discrimination policy. 

Del Duca said a lot has changed since 2018, the last time the party’s policy was updated. 

“It’s an important learning for us,” Del Duca said of diverse candidate outreach efforts. “This is something that we have to work hard at to make sure we accomplish, and I know that our work is not done.”  

While the scope and timelines are still being sussed out, it isn’t totally clear how the policy review will help potential BIPOC contestants who are feeling discouraged now. It also won’t look into the allegations against Chan. 

“We can all learn from our past,” said a spokesperson from the party. “Milton has a long history of volunteering for and helping elect many queer and POC politicians throughout his time within the Ontario Liberal Party. No further action will be taken.” 

 For Nami’s part, OLP is just paying lip service to its own equity policies. “The OLP has lost its way. It has taken for granted so long that it is the party of inclusion and diversity but it stopped doing the actual work to maintain that reality … The party is still playing the ‘brand’ game. It will retweet ‘BLM’ slogans; but tolerate Milton’s anti-Black tweets.” 

The Liberal Party maintains the proper processes were followed in Toronto Centre.