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Next leader of B.C. Tories backs off comments on sexual orientation

Former Delta MP John Cummins during a press conference where he formally announced he wants to lead the BC Conservative Party in Vancouver March 29, 2011.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The next leader of the B.C. Conservative party apologized for controversial comments he made about homosexuality.

John Cummins, the former Member of Parliament for Delta Richmond East who will be sworn in as party leader on May 28, suggested during a radio interview last week that sexual orientation is a choice that does not require specific protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"I'm not a scientist [but]some of the research tells me that there's more of an indication that that's a choice issue," he said, noting that he voted against adding sexual orientation as a ground for protection from discrimination under Canada's Human Rights Act during his time in Ottawa.

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"My comments on CFAX radio this past Wednesday may have been misinterpreted and may have offended some. I apologize for that," he said in a statement released on Sunday. "To clarify, my use of the word "choice" was unfortunate, because it confused the meaning of my statement, which was that I believe anyone can live their life in the way they want."

Mr. Cummins' statement went on to say that he does not know how sexual orientation develops, but that the discussion "is best left to experts and researchers, not politicians."

Everyone should be given the same opportunities and protections, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, he said.

"I believe that while moral issues are important to the private lives of many people in this province, there is no consensus in our party or among the public on these issues and we have no intention to change the status quo," he said. "As leader of the B.C. Conservatives, I will strive to ensure that B.C. is a great place to live, work and raise a family and that all its people enjoy equal respect and treatment in all aspects of their lives."

Mr. Cummins was an MP for 18 years, as a member of the Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative parties, and is currently the sole candidate for the provincial leadership position to be decided at the upcoming party convention.

Mr. Cummins has been in the spotlight these days because many believe his party could split the centre right vote in B.C. and cost Premier Christy Clark the next election.

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