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NDP Leader John Horgan is silhouetted as he pauses while making a seniors announcement in Queensborough, B.C., on Oct. 14, 2020.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

BC NDP Leader John Horgan said he was off-base on his answers about white privilege in the first leaders debate of B.C. election campaign.

During a campaign appearance in New Westminster, Mr. Horgan said he realized that his suggestion, during the Tuesday debate, that he didn’t see colour was a reflection of his youth, but hurtful in the present because colour does matter.

“As a personification of white privilege, I misspoke. Words matter. I deeply regret it. I am also absolutely committed to making sure that every day I am reminded of the discomfort I caused to people and I will work to correct that,” he said.

Mr. Horgan’s comments come just 10 days ahead of the provincial election on Oct. 24.

Mr. Horgan noted that 22 of 87 NDP candidates for the election are people of colour, and cited the BC NDP move, in 2017, to re-establish the BC Human Rights Commission after it was scrapped by the previous BC Liberal government in 2002.

“I am reminded every day because of the people I surround myself with that I am a person of privilege, and I need to be reminded there are many in our community that don’t have the comforts I do, and I will work every day to make sure I lift everybody up.”

He said he would welcome talking about anti-racism issues through the rest of the election because that would be time well spent.

During a campaign stop in Kitimat on Wednesday, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson also sought to add nuance to his answers on the issue during the debate.

“We all have to be very aware of white privilege. It’s something that I have been a beneficiary of and other people are not benefitting from it,” said Mr. Wilkinson, who is both a doctor and a lawyer.

He cited statements in the party’s platform talking about combatting discrimination, anti-racism training and cultural humility. But he acknowledged his answer did not address the reality that white privilege is pervasive on society. “It needs to be addressed head on,” said Mr. Wilkinson.

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