Bloc Takes Aim at New Transport Minister, Pointing Finger at ‘Islamic Movement’ Ties

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Omar Alghabra, then parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, at a news conference on the Iran plane crash, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Bloc Québécois is seeking to sow doubt about Canada’s new Transport Minister Omar Alghabra over his association with what it calls “the political Islamic movement.”

Leader Yves-François Blanchet said in a release that “questions arise” due to the minister’s former role as head of the Canadian Arab Federation.

But the Bloc leader said he “refuses to accuse” the minister of anything specific.

 

Alghabra was the federation’s president before being elected as a Toronto-area Liberal MP in 2006.

Rather than make specific accusations, the Bloc linked to a 2016 article by a right-wing Quebec newspaper columnist that made implications about Alghabra’s past.

“It’s really questions about his past … and also the separation of church and state, which is a profound value for the Bloc,” said spokesman Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous.

“We don’t want to raise any accusations, because I don’t think there’s that much.”

In 2009, then-citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney opted to cut funding for the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leader at the time made statements that Kenney called anti-Semitic and supportive of terrorist groups.

The Bloc’s attempt to undermine confidence in Alghabra, who was sworn in as transport minister Tuesday, follows his move to distance himself from a YouTuber who has expressed intolerant views toward LGBTQ communities.

Alghabra said in a statement Tuesday night he is a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights and was “shocked and disappointed” to learn of a video using homophobic slurs that was posted online by Fadi Younes, whose digital marketing agency Alghabra had hired on a contract that has since been terminated.

“I was not aware of these comments before today and I wholly reject them,” said the MP for Mississauga Centre.

“We must combat ignorance, hate or intolerance in our society. I will continue to support LGBTQ rights, as we continue to build a more inclusive and tolerant society for everyone.”

Alghabra has been subjected to innuendo about his background before.

In 2018, Conservative Sen. Denise Batters apologized to Alghabra, who was born in Saudi Arabia, after she wondered aloud why the then-parliamentary secretary for the foreign affairs minister wasn’t questioned about his place of birth while speaking with the media about Canada’s diplomatic dispute with the country at the time.

“Senator, I’m a proud Canadian who is consistent in defending human rights. How about you?” Alghabra tweeted in response to a Twitter post from Batters.

The next day, he tweeted that she had called to apologize, saying he accepted the gesture and said Batters had told him “this is a lesson to all of us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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