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OTTAWA — The federal Conservative party is defending its decision to oust a candidate from a local nomination race, as an anti-abortion organization alleges that the move was unfair. 

Party spokeswoman Sarah Fischer confirmed that Gerrit Van Dorland has been disqualified from running to become the party’s candidate in Oxford, a reliably Conservative riding in southern Ontario. 

She said he was barred for failing to provide information such as a list of social media accounts and comments he made online, and the party is only commenting publicly to offer “clarification and context.”

But a spokesman for Van Dorland’s campaign says the party did not provide it with a reason for his disqualification, and it is appealing the move. 

Anti-abortion organization RightNow has released a statement calling Van Dorland’s ousting unfair and suggesting it happened because of his “pro-life” views and likelihood of winning. 

Van Dorland was running on a pitch of “faith, family and freedom,” and earned endorsements from Conservative members of Parliament including Leslyn Lewis, who twice ran for party leadership as a social conservative. 

The seat in Oxford opened up after David MacKenzie, a longtime member of Parliament for the Tories, announced he was stepping down in December. 

In the wake of the disqualification decision, other candidates running for the nomination took to social media to express their disappointment — including Arpan Khanna, who backed Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre in his leadership bid last year and now serves as his national outreach co-ordinator. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023.

The Canadian Press