Kill gays, candidate says
High school debate audience shocked; fellow candidates say nothing
Posted By ANGELA SCAPPATURA, THE SUDBURY STAR
Updated 5 months ago
Police are investigating whether an independent federal candidate committed a hate crime by telling high school students homosexuals should be executed.
David Popescu was invited to participate in a federal candidates' discussion at Sudbury Secondary School on Tuesday. He made the comment after a student asked his opinion of gay marriage.
Within hours, the Greater Sudbury Police Service said they were investigating.
"We are actively conducting a criminal investigation in this matter," deputy police chief Frank Elsner said.
The police service plans to share its evidence with the provincial Attorney General's office, which will provide direction on whether or not a criminal charge is warranted. More than 200 students gathered in the school's auditorium to hear candidates from the NDP, Liberal Party and the First Peoples National Party.
Popescu introduced himself with a public prayer, blaming environmental damage and economic unrest on the wickedness of society. His comments were met with silence as some students grimaced and shifted in their seats.
Near the end of the more than two-hour event, students were invited to ask the candidates questions. As a long line of pupils waited to speak, Popescu told a young female student who asked about stem cell research that, "God would hurt" those who had an abortion.
The crowd jeered and many rose to their feet in protest after Popescu answered another teenager's question on gay marriage.
During a telephone interview later in the day, Popescu reasserted his view.
"A young man asked me what I think of homosexual marriages and I said I think homosexuals should be executed," he said. "My whole reason for running is the Bible and the Bible couldn't be more clear on that point."
Candidates and teachers looked on in silence as students called for him to be "cut off." Despite their outrage, the discussion moved to other topics.
Paul Camillo, principal of Sudbury Secondary, emphasized the school's inclusiveness in his closing remarks but did not condemn the statement.
"We're here today to hear what the candidates have to say," he said in an interview. "As an inclusive school, we respect all other opinion although we may not agree with them -- and I know there were definitely some things said today that we don't agree with."
When The Star later requested a comment on the controversy from the Rainbow District School Board, the board directed Camillo to provide its response, rather than the board's chair or director of education.
Camillo said he could not state whether Popescu would be welcomed back to Sudbury Secondary, as a candidate in a future political debate.
An advocate for the Sudbury Gay and Lesbian community said while Popescu's extreme views are well known, he has never said something "so extreme."
"He's not simply saying that lesbians or gay men are mentally ill or somehow deviant or criminals. He's saying we should be subject to the death penalty," said Gary Kinsman.
"I think sometimes violence and hatred towards gays and lesbians gets dressed up in sort of a religious guise and is somehow tolerated. I just don't think it should be tolerated at all."
Kinsman was particularly concerned the comments were made before a group of young people.
"There are lots of young people in high schools in Sudbury who are struggling with their sexualities. Often times, it's pretty hard time for them," he said. "To say something to young people is pretty terrible."