Jessica Simmonds no longer running for P.E.I. Liberals after Indigenous heritage questioned

'I do not believe the purity of a person's race should not be the criteria for elected office,' says Jessica Simmonds. (Jessica Simmonds/Facebook - image credit)
'I do not believe the purity of a person's race should not be the criteria for elected office,' says Jessica Simmonds. (Jessica Simmonds/Facebook - image credit)

Political candidate Jessica Simmonds will no longer run for the Liberals in Charlottetown after questions were raised about her Indigenous heritage.

Simmonds was officially nominated as the Liberal candidate in District 10: Charlottetown-Winsloe last week. According to the party, an outside group shared concerns about Simmonds Indigenous heritage.

Simmonds' claim to Indigenous heritage was cited in Liberal Party materials, including references to Simmonds' Indigenous beliefs and medicine walks.

Liberal Party of P.E.I.
Liberal Party of P.E.I.

"No other candidate is running on their heritage,"  Liberal Leader Sharon Cameron told CBC News Wednesday.

"So when we receive third-party concerns about that choice and we looked into that a little deeper [we] weren't able to provide the evidence to give it the integrity that it required so we chose to part ways."

'Let me be clear: I am a woman of Indigenous heritage'

Simmonds' mother is former provincial Progressive Conservative candidate Linda Clements, who told CBC News Simmonds' maternal family tree includes Indigenous great-great-grandparents from New Brunswick.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Simmonds said "no one ever questioned me on my degree of Indigenousness" at her nomination in late February.

But she said she received a call from Liberal Party President Katie Morrello just days later asking her to step down.

"Let me be clear: I am a woman of Indigenous heritage. Both my maternal great-great-grandparents were of Indigenous descent. I have been a member of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island since 2017, when the Native Council performed an extensive review of our family tree," Simmonds said.

"I will not speculate on the real reason why I was asked to step down. I do not believe the purity of a person's race should not be the criteria for elected office, but perhaps the selection of a replacement candidate in District 10 will answer this question."

The Native Council of P.E.I. declined confirm Simmonds' claim or to provide further comment on this story.

Zoom
Zoom

Local advocacy group BIPOC-USHR said it shared concerns with the P.E.I. Liberal Party over Jessica Simmonds — and that those concerns weren't solely about her heritage.

Executive director Sobia Ali-Faisal said Simmonds approached the group asking for workers to help on her campaign.

"We were a little bit bothered and disturbed by this because it comes across as a very superficial last-minute ploy to try and diversify or make the campaign look good," Ali-Faisal said.

"We reached out to the Liberal Party just to let them know that it was a concern of ours and why we felt uncomfortable with this. That was pretty much it."