Author and scholar Michael Ignatieff pledged his affinity Monday to Canada's Ukrainian community and branded efforts to discredit him on the eve of the federal election campaign a "transparent attempt" to twist his writing and sow dissent within the Liberal Party.
Mr. Ignatieff's confirmation as the Liberal candidate in Ontario's Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding triggered controversy this weekend, with some accusing him of disparaging Ukrainian heritage in one of his books.
The Toronto-area riding has one of the largest Ukrainian populations in the country.
Responding on Monday, Mr. Ignatieff - touted as a possible future leader of the Liberal Party - said he was "saddened to learn yesterday of an attempt to distort my words."
Some critics of Mr. Ignatieff's nomination have charged that he made anti-Ukrainian comments in his book Blood and Belonging.
They cited a passage from the book that read: "I have reasons to take the Ukraine seriously indeed. But, to be honest, I'm having trouble. Ukrainian independence conjures up images of peasant embroidered shirts, the nasal whine of ethnic instruments, phony Cossacks in cloaks and boots . . ."
Responding to the criticism, Mr. Ignatieff said the passage cited was taken out of context.
"Anyone who reads the entire chapter in question, rather than merely the phrases that have been cited in isolation and out of context, will quickly recognize that my sole purpose was to rebut, not assert, the odious stereotype of Ukrainians that has been wrongly and unfairly attributed to me," he said.
He also branded the criticism as an attempt to sow dissent in the riding in a "transparent attempt" to create division and strife ahead of an expected January vote.
"I am satisfied that tactics of this sort tend to rebound heavily on their perpetrators when weighed against the truth," said Mr. Ignatieff who also said he shares a "deep, personal affinity with the suffering of the Ukrainian people at the hands of Soviet Russia."
"My record and writings on the subject matter of Ukraine and Ukrainian history are clear. I welcome anyone who wants to review that record to do so in its entirety."
On Sunday, about 40 Toronto residents with Ukrainian roots protested outside Liberal Party headquarters, carrying placards that read "Local Liberals locked out" and "Backroom deals kill democracy."
Two potential candidates in the riding have also complained that they were not given enough time to turn in their nomination forms.