Burnaby MLA accuses BC Liberals of ‘disgusting’ sexism after Zoom ‘roast’

Katrina Chen, MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed, is calling recent comments made by a BC Liberal MLA about one of her BC NDP colleagues in a Zoom event as an example of “disgusting” sexism.

Chen tweeted Saturday after a video clip aired in which several BC Liberal members, including party leader Andrew Wilkinson, were staging a “roast” of retiring West Vancouver MLA Ralph Sultan.

Jane Thornthwaite, BC Liberal MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, at one point starts talking about Bowinn Ma, BC NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

“Bowinn is a very pretty lady and she knows that she’s got ‘it’,” Thornthwaite says as the rest of the group giggles.

You can watch the video below.

“This is disgusting,” tweeted Chen. “I am so mad.”

Chen continued, saying these types of comments about women politicians are inappropriate.

“This type of behaviour makes my blood boil,” tweeted Chen. “This is one of the reasons why it’s hard for women, young women, moms + sisters to enter politics. Sexism exists + many of us have experienced it. But coming from a group of politicians – that’s a new low. This can’t be tolerated.”

Many people have also tweeted about why none of the other people in the Zoom chat, including Wilkinson, called out the comments. Some have also tweeted wondering what Thornthwaite meant by "it" about Ma.

At 10 a.m. on Sunday, Thornthwaite tweeted a response: “I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I’m one of them. So is Bowinn Ma. Ralph Sultan has the same respect and a soft spot for his fellow UBC engineer, and I made light of that at a roast. I have always and will always support more women in politics.”

In a Sunday statement on Twitter, Ma says Thornthwaite "sexualized" her interactions with Sultan at a public event the two attended.

Thornthwaite acknowledged that her comments "fell flat and were inappropriate," and said she apologizes "unreservedly." In her own post on Twitter, Thornthwaite added that she reached out to Ma to apologize to her directly.

"I have huge respect for all women who push through glass ceilings. I’m one of them. So is Bowinn Ma," Thornthwaite said. "I commit to doing better moving forward."This video has completely derailed the BC Liberal election campaign.

#bcpoli https://t.co/roZ4rqKSsp

The Zoom video has drawn fire not just from the BC NDP, but also Green party leader Sonia Furstenau.

“This is appalling,” Furstenau tweeted. “If women are not warm in the workplace, we are castigated as rude. If we are friendly, we get this.”

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