Ontario MP Adam van Koeverden has apologized for cursing at a Canadian living abroad who called the former Olympian a "disgrace of a Canadian" for the way he dealt with her concerns about vaccine mandates.
"Last week, I let my emotions get the better of me and I responded in an unacceptable way to a direct message, and I regret that," van Koeverden, who represents the Ontario riding of Milton for the Liberals, said in a social media post.
"I want to apologize to the person I offended with the message, and anyone else I've let down."
Kate Faith, a school teacher from Brantford, Ont. who lives in New Zealand, told CBC News she is unvaccinated. She said she decided not to get the vaccine because she feared she might experience a reaction, and because of travel restrictions, her family would not be able to visit her in New Zealand if she fell ill.
Faith said vaccine mandates requiring that all passengers coming to Canada be fully vaccinated prevent her from boarding a flight to Canada to visit her parents or attend important family events.
"Last year my grandfather died and I had to watch his funeral over FaceTime and right now my uncle's sick and I'm not allowed to come home and see him," she said.
Unvaccinated Canadians have always been allowed to return to Canada. But the government says unvaccinated Canadians have to meet all "pre-entry, arrival, Day-8 testing, ArriveCAN and quarantine requirements," according to the government's website. Otherwise, they can face a fine up to $5,000 or face criminal prosecution, the government's website says.
While Faith could have flown to Canada, vaccine mandates would have prevented her from boarding a plane to fly back to New Zealand.
Faith told CBC News she was fired from her job as a teacher in November because of her vaccination status. She said she resumed teaching in April when vaccine mandates in New Zealand were dropped.
She said she wrote to every Liberal and NDP MP to express her frustration about the duration of Canada's vaccine mandates, but none of them replied. She said she started reaching out to MPs on Instagram, but only one MP responded.
In a tense Instagram exchange with van Koeverden, she asked the MP why vaccine mandates are still in place and suggested it had to do with "corruption and MPs who won't do what's right."
A tense exchange
"Well you sound a lot smarter than the epidemiologists I speak with. Sorry I responded," said van Koeverden, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health.
Faith told van Koeverden that she is a 29-year-old who had COVID two months ago and asked him why she is not allowed to fly.
"Not here to inform you Kate, later," van Koeverden replied.
Faith pressed van Koeverden for evidence supporting vaccine mandates and called the MP "a disgrace of a Canadian."
"F--k you," van Koeverden replied.
The MP added that he had "made a mistake in responding to someone like you" and wished Faith "good luck."
"He was not receptive and he was quite condescending, just saying that I'm not a scientist, but he's not one either," she said. "He just wafted away everything and said that it was justified and said f--k you because I called out his negative behaviour."
Van Koeverden said in his Twitter message said that he realizes the past two years have been exceptionally difficult for everyone.
"Moving forward I will work to be more patient and conduct myself with the high standard people deserve from their elected representatives," he said in his apology.
MPs need to listen: Lantsman
Faith said she also reached out to a small number of Conservative MPs and received responses from Toronto-area Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman and Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis.
Lantsman, who has been calling for an end to vaccine mandates, responded personally to Faith about her concerns.
"We told her that we were working on reuniting her with her family," Lantsman told CBC News.
Lantsman said that while being an MP is a tough job and it can be hard not to lose your cool, people need to know that MPs are listening to them about their concerns.
Faith said she saw van Koeverden's tweet walking back his language and she doesn't think it's genuine.
"I think it would be pretty cool and big of him to actually reach out to me and apologize. Otherwise I think it's just lip service," she said.