How would you choose, if you were the leader of a feminist political party?
In Sault Ste. Marie, an experienced and respected Indigenous lawyer — who is female — wanted to be the Ontario Liberal candidate in the 2022 election. She grew up on the reserve, and put herself through school. She has lots of experience with all kinds of law — Indigenous, administrative, environmental, energy, mining, criminal and corporate law.
She has also been legal counsel to one of the largest electricity providers in Canada. She is called to the bar in Ontario and Alberta. She has appeared before courts and tribunals at all levels. Her work has been cited at the Supreme Court of Canada. She has been a university professor at Algoma University.
Meanwhile, another person also wanted the Ontario Liberal nomination in the Sault. He is a male teenager, white, still in high school, and he doesn’t live in Sault Ste. Marie. Last year, in fact, he was a Grade 11 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary in Sudbury. He lives about three hours away from the riding. He’s been on the radio a few times, however. There’s that.
The female Indigenous lawyer is Naomi Sayers. The white male high school student is Aidan Kallioinen.
Steven Del Duca’s Liberals refused Naomi Sayer’s application — and made the kid the candidate.
They did it on Monday night with 16 minutes notice given to local Liberals. “Aidan Kallioinen will be acclaimed as the candidate of the Ontario Liberal Party in the electoral district of Sault Ste. Marie,” declared Mike Cavanaugh and Jordan Hudyma in an email sent to party members.
And that was that.
The Ontario Liberal leader brags, all the time, about how many female candidates he’s got. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, Del Duca issued a statement on International Women’s Day, and said: “Ontario Liberals will fight to make sure our province has an equitable recovery. We are also committed to ensuring that come this June, at least 50 per cent of our candidates are women.”
Except, in the case of Indigenous female lawyer Naomi Sayers, they weren’t very “equitable.” They chose a white male high school student instead.
How come? Good question. I’ve never met Naomi Sayers, but I know of her reputation. She’s an excellent lawyer, and I even referred a client to her a couple years ago.
She’s also active on social media. And, in the distant past, yes, she did sex work. She’s been open about that. And the Law Societies of Ontario and Alberta obviously weren’t concerned about that, because they both admitted her to the bar.
Did the Ontario Liberals raise that issue with Naomi Sayers? No, of course not. Instead, they denied her candidacy because, well, she disclosed too much material to them. Charrissa Klander, the “nomination commissioner” for the Ontario Liberals, wrote to Sayers and said: “Given the fact that we are days away from the election being called, and we will be unable to complete full vetting, I am writing to advise you that I have instructed staff to stop further review of your nomination application.” There was an “enormous volume of material” provided by Sayers, Klander complained.
So, Sayers was out. And, a few days later, the Ontario Liberals picked young Aidan Kallioinen, who has hastily scrubbed his own social media — but has previously been on Instagram as “SlapMyN___MC,” and who participates in Minecraft chats where there’s lots of jokes about people “dying of AIDS.”
Naomi Sayers is now running as independent in Sault Ste. Marie. She knows her chances are not great. And she’s sad about what Steven Del Duca’s party did to her.
“People are upset and not happy with how the party treated me. Those are the facts — I can’t change the facts,” says Sayers. “But I am happy to have my name on the ballot as an independent candidate and I’m looking forward to participating in the democratic process to bring a voice for Sault Ste. Marie to the Legislature.”
We’ve asked the feminist Ontario Liberals why the white, male “SlapMyN___MC” kid is their preferred candidate, and not the experienced Indigenous female lawyer. So far, they haven’t responded.
But the choice referred to at the start of this column? The answer is pretty clear: Naomi Sayers should have been the Ontario Liberal candidate in the Sault.
Not the white, male high school student.
– Kinsella ran the Ontario Liberal war room in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law.