Canada's public safety minister is accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of supporting terrorists, more than three years after he visited a mosque that was later declared by the U.S. to be one of nine places worldwide where "known al-Qaeda members were recruited, facilitated or trained" more than a decade earlier.
Steven Blaney, the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, issued a public statement today on Trudeau's visit to the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque, located in Trudeau's Montreal riding of Papineau.
"It is completely unacceptable that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau would associate with a group that allegedly radicalizes Canadians to join al-Qaeda and engage in acts of unspeakable violent extremism.
"Now he is pandering for votes amongst religious extremists in our own communities. It is clear that Justin Trudeau cannot be trusted to keep Canadians safe," Blaney said.
But in a telephone interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale said Trudeau has not visited the Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiah mosque since March 2011 — before classified U.S. intelligence reports naming it were made public in April 2011.
The U.S. intelligence reports referred to individuals who had been associated with the mosque more than a decade earlier.
It was reported at the time the U.S. intelligence became public that several men who had passed through the Montreal mosque in the late 1990s ended up detained outside of Canada in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
Attacks 'a cheap smear'
"If these reports are true, it is the government's responsibility to act on the matter," Goodale said.
He characterized Blaney's attack on Trudeau as nothing short of "character assassination" and "a cheap smear."
Blaney's office could not specifically say what the Canadian government was doing about a mosque that is allegedly radicalizing Canadians to join al-Qaeda.
"I cannot comment on operational matters related to national security.
"What I can say is that our government is working to combat radicalization leading to violent extremism through stronger legislation and strengthening relationships with Canada’s allies in the world," a spokesman for Blaney told CBC News in an email.
Asked what prompted the minister to issue a statement on Trudeau's visit to a mosque three years on, his office said they were simply responding to a request by media for comment.
Blaney was not the only minister to level accusations against Trudeau Wednesday.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino posted a comment on his MP Twitter account chiding Trudeau for consorting "with religious extremists."
Justin Trudeau cannot be trusted with our safety. He's soft on crime, pro-marijuana legalization, & now consorts with religious extremists.— @JulianFantino
The Conservatives have also attacked Trudeau over his position in favour of legalizing marijuana and his comments immediately following the Boston Marathon where he talked about the need "to look at the root causes" that led to the attack.
Trudeau was in B.C. and not available for comment.