BlackBerry CEO John Chen slams MPP Shafiq Qaadri for 'insulting' words

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has come out swinging against Shafiq Qaadri, a member of the Ontario legislature, in response to comments the Liberal made after introducing a petition to get the provincial government to use Apple and Android phones.

Liberal MPP says company's devices are 'handicapping and retarding'

BlackBerry CEO John Chen is asking Ontario MPP Shafiq Qaadri to apologize for comments he made after introducing a petition to get the provincial government to use Android and Apple devices. (Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg News)

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has come out swinging against Shafiq Qaadri, a member of the Ontario legislature, in response to comments the Liberal made after introducing a petition to get the provincial government to use Apple and Android phones.

If the member wants the latest Apple apps or Snapchats with friends, he can do it on his own dime.- Michael Harris, MPP 

Qaadri, the MPP for Etobicoke-North, introduced a petition a week ago at Queen's Park by saying that BlackBerry phones are "handicapping, retarding and penalizing MPPs, their staff and indeed all members of the legislative community."

In a post on the company's website, Chen said that Qaadri "used offensive words that have no place in modern discourse" and called on him to apologize for "behaviour that reflects poorly on all of Canada."

Chen went on to say that Qaadri's petition was "insulting" and his criticisms of BlackBerry "failed on the merits of his argument."

Qaadri said that the province's "BlackBerry-only policy" was hampering legislators and support staff, and that he wanted to see the government embrace other smartphones and tablets including Apple and Android. 

Qaadri issues apology

In a tweet on Monday morning, Qaadri apologized for his language, but did not elaborate. Qaadri's office said the MPP would not comment further.

It's not the first time Qaadri has introduced a petition asking the government to allow MPPs and staffers to use non-BlackBerry devices. He introduced a similar petition in April 2014, during the last parliamentary session.

In response, Chen made note of all of the governments that use BlackBerry for security and privacy, and went on to say that the Ontario government's use of the devices is "sending a strong message" to the public. 

"As an Ontario-headquartered company, BlackBerry pays corporate taxes in Ontario on revenue generated from sales worldwide, not just in Ontario," said Chen. "Among many other things, we help support the operations of the legislative assembly — and that includes Mr. Qaadri's salary."

On Wednesday, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris defended BlackBerry at Queen's Park, calling Qaadri's comments an "offensive, reckless and insensitive attack." Harris is one of the MPPs for Waterloo Region, which includes  Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, Ont., where BlackBerry is headquartered.

"Frankly, if the member wants the latest Apple apps or Snapchats with friends, he can do it on his own dime," said Harris. 

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