A federal Liberal candidate at the centre of a social media firestorm apologized Monday.

It's the first time Jaime Battiste is reacting publicly to the social media posts he made years ago.

"I want to start off with the elephant in the room and apologize," said Battiste, who is running for the Liberals in the riding of Sydney-Victoria,

That's how Battiste started off a climate change debate at Cape Breton University.

"I take full responsibility for what I said and what I tweeted those years ago," Battiste said. "They were done during a time of heartbreak and depression and that's not a good time to use humour."

In 2012, Battiste tweeted: "Why do I assume every skinny Aboriginal girl is on crystal meth or pills?"

In another, he made light of sexual assault, tweeting "five minutes in Cheers and I would accidently sexually assault a cougar … twice."

Those comments were called "disgusting and inexcusable" by the Conservative Party's Lisa Raitt.

"These are times in which that kind of language against women, against minorities, against LGBTQ members," Raitt said. "This is just not acceptable in this day and age, and quite frankly, these were not one-offs. These were many comments made over a period of time."

Raitt says Battiste should have come forward earlier and should now resign, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is backing his candidate.

"We recognize that Jaime Battiste took responsibility for his actions and has apologized," Trudeau said.

While Battiste says some people have reached out to him to show support, others have not been so kind, leading to some security concerns at the debate.

"I'm just making sure that things are OK," he said. "I haven't been able to see the online things because my team has kept them away from me."

For now, Battiste says he wants to leave his past behind him and move forward with election day just two weeks away.

Battiste ended the debate Monday by saying all he can do is apologize, and whether voters accept that apology will be clear on election day on Oct 21.