Joe Daniel, a Conservative candidate running for re-election in Toronto, has come under fire for comments warning against a so-called Muslim "agenda" to resettle Syrian refugees to European countries, but his campaign manager says the comments were "taken out of context" and "blown out of proportion."
In a video obtained by CBC News, the candidate in the Toronto riding of Don Valley North says, "I think there is a different agenda going on in terms of these refugees.
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"Whereas at the same time Saudi Arabia is putting up money for 200 mosques in Germany. I think the agenda is to try and move as many Muslims into some of these European countries to change these countries in a major way.
"That's something that I certainly don't want to see happening in Canada," said Daniel. "I think Canada is the greatest country in the world."
His comments seem to refer to a controversial offer by Saudi Arabia to build 200 mosques in Germany for refugees displaced from Syria.
'Blown out of proportion'
Daniel's comments were circulated online days after the Conservatives announced an expedited process to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016, in an effort to move past criticism the government wasn't doing enough to help ease the crisis.
In a phone interview with CBC News, campaign manager Didar Khokhar said it was ultimately up to Daniel to explain his comments, but immediately went on to say they were "taken out of context."
"He was touching upon the controversy that has seized Europe," Khokhar said Wednesday afternoon.
Khokhar said Daniel gave a brief speech during a barbecue with some 30 people in attendance, where he touted the government's record on the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
"He made the comments in passing," Khokhar said.
Refugees assisted by Daniel
Daniel, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 2011, was born in Tanzania and immigrated to Canada in 1987 from the U.K., where he was raised.
Khokhar said Daniel has had a hand in helping Canadians who want to sponsor Syrian refugees.
"He has already helped several refugees," Khokhar said, adding that two Syrians had arrived in Canada last week and that seven more were expected to arrive in the coming days thanks to Daniel's help.
While the Conservatives have been criticized for giving priority to refugees who are ethnic and religious minorities, Khokhar rejected the idea that Daniel's comments could add fuel to that perception.
"Not at all," Khokhar said.
High-profile cabinet minister Jason Kenney recently rejected the notion that giving priority to "the most vulnerable" would result in the exclusion of Muslims.
Doing so "is not code for Muslims," Kenney said last week.
Khokhar touted Daniel's good work and blamed the media for creating "sensationalistic" headlines. He insisted Daniel's comments were "blown out of proportion."
Daniel was not available for an interview.