Canadian Student Booted from Conservative Event Because of Facebook Photo With Liberal Leader

The election cycle in Canada is in full swing as the Harper government was held in contempt, triggering a 30-day campaign cycle culminating in a national vote.This past week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party made headlines for the wrong reasons. Amid myriad stories of people, particularly students, being barred and removed from campaign events, comes the tale of Awish Aslam.

This picture of Awish Aslam, right and Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, led to Aslam's removed from a Conservative campaign event.

Hers has become one of the most talked about profiles on Facebook; not because of the content contained with, but because of those who have been checking in on her. A sophomore from the University of Western Ontario, the 19-year-old student was booted from a campaign event in London, Ontario, along with her friends just 30 minutes after arriving when an officer told her, “We know you guys have ties to the Liberal Party through Facebook and you’re not welcome here.”

Ms. Aslam, however, says she is not a member of the Liberal Party, but does have a Facebook photo of her and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the party and biggest rival to Mr. Harper and the Conservatives, from a campaign event earlier in the week.

Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Harper and the Conversative, said the following during a scrum in Quebec: “For example the issue of the young lady. I can’t speak to all the specifics. But the young student in London yesterday on behalf of the campaign we apologized for the inconvenience. At the same time, next time we’re in London the prime minister would love to meet with the young student, take a picture with her and hopefully she can post it on her Facebook site as well.”

Ms. Aslam has been extended an invitation to personally meet the Prime Minister, and according to the Globe and Mail, she is intent upon asking Mr. Harper personally the reasoning behind being removed from the event.

The Liberals didn’t miss an opportunity, creating a YouTube video mocking the incident and attacking Conversatives, using Ms. Aslam’s name and picture to reach the tagline of, “Stop Facebook Creepers,” and “Ditch Harper.”  Here is the video:

Ms. Aslam shared the private message between her and the Conservative Party spokesman following the incident

While since the incident a Mr. Soudas has called and apologized to Ms. Aslam on behalf of the party and invited her to future events, the issue remains that her Facebook profile was checked in upon by campaign event managers. Questions abound; were the Conservatives in the wrong for removing her? Were they wrong in first checking out her Facebook? Clearly her profile was open to be looked at—there is nothing to suggest that she was hacked into, and at no point has she claimed her profile is the utmost private. At this moment her profile picture and her friends are visible to everyone.  Her profile picture is curious-it is three smaller pictures arranged in a quadrant with one quarter white—one picture looks to be with a friend, while one is her with Mr. Ignatieff, and the other is with Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party. It stands to reason that if she gets a picture with Mr. Harper, that photograph will take up the missing space.

Certainly she can’t be at fault as she didn’t have anything indecent or criminal on her page, but a picture with the opposition leader does raise some red flags, right? It is Mr. Harper that is being labeled as a ‘Facebook creeper,’ and he is indeed the face of the part and head of the campaign, but such decisions are made not by him, but people under him. So should the label fit?

It looks bad in the media, and unlike the United States, Canada allows only 30 days of campaigning for a national election; any screw up such as this takes precious attention away from a serious message. Still, is the story here that a campaign did a sort of background check on an event-goer, or that there is so much information available about students and young professionals as they continue to post items to public arenas?

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