OTTAWA — Kevin Vuong will not step down after winning election as a Liberal even though he'd been dumped from the party ticket.
Vuong said in a statement Wednesday that he intends to serve his constituents in the downtown Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York despite controversy over a sexual assault charge laid against him in 2019, which was later dropped.
The Liberal party cut ties with Vuong two days before Monday's election after the Toronto Star revealed the incident.
However, thousands of people had already voted by mail or in advance polls in the riding and it was too late to remove Vuong's name or party affiliation from the ballots that were cast Monday.
The Canadian Press declared Vuong the winner in his riding late Wednesday. The Liberal party had said Vuong would have to sit as an Independent if he won.
"Not everyone will have received the result they wanted but everyone is counting on those elected to devote themselves to the service of everyone they represent," Vuong said in the statement.
"That is what I intend to do."
He said he understands the doubts some might have about him and pledged "to work hard to earn your trust."
Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith countered on Twitter that "one earns trust by acting with integrity."
"In this case, that means stepping down."
Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy, a New Democrat, echoed that sentiment: "Kevin Vuong did not earn the right to represent our Spadina-Fort York community ... If he wants to sit as an Independent MP he should campaign for the job as one."
Vuong, who has categorically denied the sexual assault allegation, said he intends to address the incident "more wholly in a dedicated forum."
But for now, he said he wanted people to understand that he was "involved in a casual but intimate relationship" with the complainant.
"I understood everything to be consensual and was always respectful of her boundaries," he said.
Given that the voices of sexual violence victims have for years been silenced, Vuong said he understands why some "may be hesitant to believe the allegations made against me are false even if the charges were withdrawn."
"There is work to be done to regain trust. I fully intend to do so."
The Liberal party has said Vuong did not reveal the charge when he was being vetted as a prospective candidate.
The Canadian Armed Forces is also reviewing the matter because Vuong, a naval reservist, did not notify the military when he was charged, as is required.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press