Toronto activist Bridget Perrier is speaking out after learning she was the target of an offensive Twitter post made by a man now seeking election in Brampton, Ont.
“I don’t even know how to even articulate how disgusting it is,” she said.
The 2012 tweet was a response to a commuter newspaper story, “Group-home girls targeted by pimp,” that featured a picture of Perrier on the cover.
“Geez they’re really letting everyone into that business these days. #gottagetmesomeofthat #shejustmissedbeingpretty,” Brampton Centre NDP candidate Jordan Boswell tweeted on Nov. 16, 2012, with a screenshot of the headline and picture attached.
Perrier is an advocate for victims of sex trafficking, an issue that disproportionately affects Indigenous women like her. She co-founded the education group Sextrade 101, and is a survivor herself. She was exploited starting at age 12 after leaving a group home.
“To ridicule someone for opening up such a big wound … to help other women, is disgraceful,” Perrier said in an interview Sunday. “You know, I’ve been upset about it all week.”
She reached out to Global News on Friday after the outlet reported on Boswell’s tweet on Thursday.
Perrier said she faces hate all the time for her work, which has included speaking at the United Nations and House of Commons committees.
But she didn’t know about Boswell’s post until it gained attention on Twitter this week and she got a 5 a.m. phone call from a colleague.
“When I saw that it was someone from the NDP, my heart sank,” she said of the party, which is known for its socially progressive stance.
Boswell issued an apology on Wednesday evening.
“I deeply regret the hurtful and wrong comment I made on social media. I understand this type of language is offensive and harmful. I apologize unequivocally,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.
According to his LinkedIn page, Boswell worked on Jagmeet Singh’s campaign for the NDP leadership and later served as his executive assistant.
A spokesperson for the NDP said Boswell was not available for an interview Sunday. The party did not provide additional comment.
Perrier said she has been approached about receiving a formal apology from Boswell sometime in the future, which she is open to hearing.
Boswell, she said, needs to know what impact his comments have had. She added that they reminded her of the misogynistic attitudes she encountered while doing sex work.
“It’s the same way the men who buy sex from us talked about us,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Singh was campaigning in the Greater Toronto Area Thursday and was asked about Boswell at a press conference.
He said Boswell was allowed to stay on as an NDP candidate because he accepted that he did something wrong, and showed that he has changed.
“The comments were horribly wrong and harmful and hurtful. But I know that he is not only taking responsibility but has committed to behaviour and a future where that’s not what he believes,” Singh responded.
Perrier called Singh’s apology “typical mumbo-jumbo politicians give out.”
“He showed Canada his true feelings about women by not dealing with that,” she said. “A real leader would have said, I’m sorry, Jordan, I know you’ve done something wrong, but this is not tolerated.”
–With files from Jessica Patton, Global News
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