Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is standing by Will Prosper as Projet Montréal's star candidate for the borough of Montréal-Nord, after revelations Prosper was forced to resign from the RCMP for disciplinary reasons.
Speaking to reporters, Plante says she is confident in her party's choice of Prosper and declined his offer to resign his candidacy following a Journal de Montréal report published Thursday morning.
"After he made that mistake 22 years ago, Will Prosper lost his job. I feel like he has paid and he has learned," Plante said.
"For me, Will Prosper is still the person who's dedicated the last 20 years of his life to grassroots work supporting communities that are in need, that are the most vulnerable in the city of Montreal. That needs to count."
The mistake Plante was referring to stems from allegations dating back to 1999 when the RCMP accused Prosper of accessing sensitive information about alleged Montreal gang members who were under investigation for murder. The story was uncovered this week by the Journal de Montréal and later confirmed by CBC News.
According to RCMP adjudication board documents, the RCMP believed Prosper, who was working as an officer in Winnipeg, had then shared some of that information with the individuals who were being investigated.
A 'huge mistake'
Prosper had admitted to accessing the information, saying he'd been curious because he knew the suspects personally, but that he denied sharing it with them.
The board did not accept Prosper's assertion that the queries were done out of simple curiosity, but there was never a criminal investigation or charges. Prosper was dismissed from the RCMP.
On Thursday, Prosper said he paid the price for his actions back in 1999 and it has weighed on him in the years since. However, he said, he did not commit a crime.
"I never gave or handed out the information to anybody. It's against my principles," said Prosper.
Calling it a "huge mistake" to snoop in the database, Prosper said he is "continuously measuring the impact it has on me personally and professionally."
WATCH | Will Prosper says he never shared sensitive data with anybody
Plante agreed the allegations are serious, but said Prosper couldn't have revealed the reason for his leaving the force to Projet Montréal because of a confidentiality agreement.
"Second chances, I think they are important," said Plante, noting her opponent in the upcoming November election, former mayor Denis Coderre, was himself investigated back when he was still a member of parliament.
Coderre has been calling for Prosper to withdraw from the race, but Plante said, Coderre "needs to do a little introspection."
Prosper is a well-known activist in Montréal-Nord, where he has been critical of a heavy police presence and, during the pandemic, launched awareness campaigns aimed at informing vulnerable residents about the dangers of COVID-19.
Montréal-Nord has a number of dense and lower-income neighbourhoods where infection spread quickly in the first months of the pandemic.
Prosper and the group he co-founded, Hoodstock, criticised the current borough administration, led by Ensemble Montréal's Christine Black, for its slow response to the pandemic's impact on vulnerable communities in Montréal-Nord.
Over the last two decades, Prosper said he has dedicated himself to improving his community and helping youth. Now, he said, he wants to continue his community work as mayor, bringing change in collaboration with Projet Montréal.
"We need to do better for our community," he said.
Coderre calls for Prosper's resignation
At a news conference earlier Thursday, Coderre called on Prosper to resign. Christine Black, the incumbent borough mayor in Montréal-Nord who is part of Coderre's party, did the same on Twitter.
"I truly believe that Mr. Prosper shouldn't be a candidate. But the current mayor chose to protect this activist instead of protecting Montrealers," Coderre said.
Coderre alluded to a spate of gun violence in recent weeks in Montreal, calling into question "the security of the population."
"An agenda of security and vigilance should be number one right now," he said.