David Popescu (politician)
J. David Popescu is a perennial candidate for public office in the Canadian city of Sudbury, Ontario, who has run in several federal, provincial and municipal elections. He was convicted of willfully promoting hatred against homosexuals in August 2009.
Private life and early campaigns
Popescu worked at Inco in his twenties, but quit in 1972 after converting to fundamentalist Christianity. He has said that he does not campaign to win votes, but rather to warn citizens of the judgment he believes will be visited upon them by the Christian God if they do not live their lives in accordance with Biblical commands.
Popescu believes that the decisions of elected officials have made it difficult for citizens to avoid what he considers to be sinful activity. "The casino, pornography and undoing the Lord's Day are opening the door for sin that destroys," he said in the 2000 municipal election. "If we violate (God's) standards, we're doomed from the start." On other occasions, he said that popular music stores should be closed because they "promote Satanic music", and that Sudbury's annual Dragon Boat races should be canceled because the boat designs invoke the devil. Popescu has also said that natural disasters and other catastrophes are divine judgment for earthly sins.
He has used his political campaigns to distribute a self-produced video, in which he delivers a series of sermons. In 2003, the Sudbury Star noted that this recording contained messages directed against homosexuals. In one sermon, Popescu says, "God burnt five homosexual cities alive, including women and children, as an example of what we are supposed to do to them. Instead, our evil government gives them rights."
Popescu was charged with assault against his elderly mother in 2003, after a family member reported seeing a large bruise on her arm. Testifying at a bail court hearing, Popescu said that he had given his mother a "small swat and a light shake" to get her attention during a dispute over the placement of towels in their home. He expressed remorse for his action, but argued that it was not serious and did not constitute assault. He also testified that he had been violent toward his mother in the past, but said that this abuse had ended more than 25 years earlier. Acting as his own representative at trial, Popescu said that he had committed "unintentional assault" while "disciplining" his mother. Under cross examination from the assistant crown attorney, he also testified that he had lived with his mother his entire life, had not worked in the community since 1972, and survived off his mother's small pension.
Popescu, who lived at a Salvation Army men's shelter after being granted bail, was found guilty of assault following a day-long trial. The presiding judge expressed "very grave concerns" about the effect of Popescu's controlling behaviour over his mother. He was sentenced to three years probation, and required to report for a psychological assessment. He subsequently received part-time work at the Salvation Army, and continued to protest his innocence.
2008 election controversy
Statement on homosexuals at debate
At a candidates' debate staged for Sudbury Secondary School students on September 29, 2008, Popescu stated in response to a question on same-sex marriage that "homosexuals should be executed". Following these statements, the Greater Sudbury Police Service announced that he was under investigation for violating Canada's hate laws. Popescu repeated his previous statements one day after the debate, arguing that they were based on Biblical passages. He said, "I said I believe homosexuals should be executed . . . when I say homosexuals should be executed, I am speaking in terms of government actions. That is the way the Bible puts it."
Response and criticism
Many students who attended the debate expressed their disapproval of Popescu's remarks, and demanded that his microphone be cut off. At the end of the debate, the school principal personally disavowed Popescu's statement. The Sudbury Star subsequently printed an editorial entitled "That's enough of Popescu's bile", describing him as "a religious extremist beyond any measured debate" who "contributes nothing to the democratic process", and calling for him to be banned from future debates.
Gary Kinsman, an advocate for the Sudbury gay and lesbian community, sharply criticized Popescu and his remarks, stating that "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. 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."
On October 1, the four major party candidates in the riding — Liberal Party incumbent Diane Marleau, Conservative Party candidate Gerry Labelle, New Democratic Party candidate Glenn Thibeault and Green Party candidate Gordon Harris — announced in a joint statement that they would not participate in any further debates in which Popescu was included.
The Rainbow District School Board later announced that it would not invite Popescu to any further debates. Jean Hanson, the board's director of education, was quoted as saying, "We do not tolerate statements that promote hatred or violence in our schools. Such comments are contrary to what is expected in a civil society. There is no justification for this." Regarding the decision to invite Popescu to the debate in the first place, Hanson stated "We cannot predict what candidates will say in public forums but we can certainly take measures to ensure that what happened at Sudbury Secondary School with this particular candidate never happens again."
John Oakley, a talk radio host on Toronto's CFMJ, subsequently interviewed Popescu and Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy regarding Popescu's comments. During the interview, Popescu directly stated that Kennedy herself should be executed, leading to a second hate crimes investigation by the Toronto Police.
Popescu later said that said he stood by all the comments that were attributed to him, and that he was not concerned about facing possible criminal charges.
Trial and conviction
On March 5, 2009, the Ministry of the Attorney General announced that they had concluded their investigation, and officially charged Popescu with two counts of willful promotion of hatred under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Contacted by the Sudbury Star, he again said that he would not retract any of his previous statements. His trial took place on August 7, 2009. Popescu represented himself, and said that he was "repeating what was in the Bible when he made the comments". The presiding judge disagreed, saying that he was "not at all satisfied with the explanation by Mr. Popescu that his statements are based on his religious beliefs". He said that Popescu "basically picks and chooses what is in his best interest, according to his interpretation of the Bible," and "has clothed his disgraceful attitude to this community of people (gays and lesbians) in a religious context". Popescu was convicted of willfully promoting hatred against homosexuals, and was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 18 months.
2010 municipal election
Popescu subsequently stood for office again in the 2010 municipal election, and a brief controversy resulted when he was invited to participate in a debate sponsored by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. Mayoral candidate Marianne Matichuk publicly criticized the Chamber of Commerce for not excluding Popescu from the debate, while candidate Derek Young called Matichuk's move a populist ploy that would both undermine the democratic process and distract from other issues in the debate, and the Chamber of Commerce reiterated that its standing policy when sponsoring political debates was to invite all registered candidates regardless of their personal views. Popescu had already participated in other mayoral debates during the 2010 election campaign without incident, and none of the candidates for mayor, including Matichuk, opted to boycott the Chamber of Commerce debate over Popescu's inclusion.
|Canadian federal election, 2008: Sudbury|
|New Democratic||Glenn Thibeault||15,094||35.15||+3.20||$71,329|
|First Peoples National||Will Morin||397||0.92||$0|
|Total valid votes/Expense limit||42,943||100.00||$82,461|
|Total rejected ballots||192||0.45||-0.03|
|Electors on the lists||73,724|
|Note: italicized expenditure totals refer to data that has not yet been finalized by Elections Canada.|
|Canadian federal election, 2006: Sudbury|
|New Democratic Party||Gerry McIntaggart||15,225||31.95||+2.09||$38,386|
|Progressive Canadian||Stephen L. Butcher||782||1.64||–||$365|
|Independent||David Popescu||54||0.11||none listed|
|Total valid votes||47,650||100.00|
|Total rejected ballots||228||0.48||-0.07|
|Electors on the lists||72,552|
|Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.|
|Ontario general election, 2007: Sudbury|
|New Democratic Party||Dave Battaino||8,914||27.13||+13.24||$38,488.63|
|Progressive Conservative||Louis Delongchamp||2,605||7.93||-6.15||$12,594.00|
|Family Coalition||Carita Murphy-Marketos||293||0.89||–||$3,118.15|
|Total valid votes||32,851||100.00|
|Rejected, unmarked and declined ballots||201||0.61||-0.15|
|Electors on the lists||64,665|
Note: Percentage changes are factored for redistribution. Sources: Official 2007 Poll by Poll Results and 2007 Annual Returns, Candidate and Constituency Associations, Elections Ontario.
|Ontario general election, 1999: Sudbury|
|Progressive Conservative||Mila Wong||10,948||29.58||+2.94||$61,776.00|
|New Democratic Party||Paul Chislett||3,891||10.51||-18.12||not listed|
|Natural Law||Bernard Fram||184||0.50||-0.53||$0.00|
|Independent||Ed Pokonzie||159||0.43||+0.03||not listed|
|Total valid votes||37,017||100.00|
|Rejected, unmarked and declined ballots||245||0.66|
|Electors on the lists||66,904|
Note: Percentage change figures are not factored for redistribution.
|Candidate||Total votes||% of total votes|
|Total valid votes||54,771||100.00|
|Candidate||Total votes||% of total votes|
|Brian R. Gatien||1,280||2.38|
|Mary Fournier Pagnutti||405||0.75|
|Total valid votes||53,851||100.00|
|Candidate||Total votes||% of total votes|
|Mary Fournier Pagnutti||3,923||7.2|
|Carl St. John||1,955||3.6|
It is possible that this list is not complete.
- Chris Polehoykie, "Gordon the favourite in historic election", Sudbury Star, 14 October 2000, A1.
- "Popescu guilty of promoting hatred", Sudbury Star, August, 2009.
- Chris Polehoykie, "Candidates a sincere, but inexperienced, group", Sudbury Star, 12 November 2000, A3; Harold Carmichael, "Gordon 'deserved to win,' rival says", Sudbury Star, 14 November 2000, A8; "Candidate wants to spread God's word", Sudbury Star, 17 January 2006, A4.
- Chris Polehoykie, "Gordon promises to cut taxes in new city", Sudbury Star, 20 October 2000, A1.
- Bob Vaillancourt, "Mayoral candidates talk roads, God", Sudbury Star, 18 October 2003, A1; Laura Stradiotto, "Mayoral candidate blasts debate", Sudbury Star, 7 November 2003, A3.
- Chris Polehoykie, "Candidates a sincere, but inexperienced, group", Sudbury Star, 12 November 2000, A3. Following the 2000 election, Popescu said that victorious candidate Jim Gordon "deserved to win" for the work he had done for the city. See Harold Carmichael, "Gordon 'deserved to win,' rival says", Sudbury Star, 14 November 2000, A8.
- Rob O'Flanagan, "The Bible guides candidate's campaign", Sudbury Star, 24 October 2003, A3.
- "Law and morals candidate accused of assaulting mother", National Post, 13 June 2003, A8.
- Denis St. Pierre, "'I wanted her to feel it ... to get her to listen'", Sudbury Star, 23 October 2003, A1; Rob O'Flanagan, "The Bible guides candidate's campaign", Sudbury Star, 24 October 2003, A3.
- Denis St. Pierre, "Bible-thumping candidate charged with hitting mother", Sudbury Star, 13 June 2003, A1; Denis St. Pierre, "Comments appear to have 'crossed the line,' police say", Sudbury Star, 30 September 2008, accessed 3 October 2008.
- Lara Bradley, "No jail time for mayoral candidate", Sudbury Star, 25 October 2003, A3.
- "Candidate wants to spread God's word", Sudbury Star, 17 January 2006, A4.
- Harold Carmichael, "Working outside the mainstream", Sudbury Star, 8 October 2007, A6.
- Sudbury police investigate independent candidate over gay comments, Canwest News Service, October 01, 2008. When the investigation concludes, the case will be forwarded to a local Crown prosecutor and then to Ontario's Attorney General for a decision on whether or not criminal charges will be laid.
- Brian Macleod, "To print ... was the only choice", Sudbury Star, 4 October 2008, A10.
- "That's enough of Popescu's bile" [editorial], Sudbury Star, 1 October 2008, accessed 3 October 2008.
- Kill gays, candidate says by Angela Scappatura, Sun Media, October 1, 2008 (retrieved on October 11, 2008).
- "Candidates want Popescu barred", Sudbury Star, October 2, 2008.
- Rainbow Board bans Popescu from events, Sudbury Star, 3 October 2008, accessed 3 October 2008.
- Election candidate in Sudbury, Ont., faces second probe for anti-gay remarks, Canadian Press (reprinted on Yahoo News), October 7, 2008.
- "Sudbury candidate probed after second anti-gay remark", ctv.ca, October 8, 2008.
- "Popescu charged for comments on gays". Sudbury Star, March 6, 2009.
- "Debate participation sparks controversy". Sudbury Star, October 9, 2010