Politics

Trudeau says he learned about MP Marwan Tabbara's months-old arrest on Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that he and his office only learned about criminal charges against Kitchener-area MP Marwan Tabbara on Friday.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Tabbara should have told Trudeau, the Liberal caucus

Marwan Tabbara is the Liberal MP for Kitchener South-Hespeler in Ontario. (Liberal.ca)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that he and his office only learned about criminal charges against Kitchener-area MP Marwan Tabbara on Friday.

"No one in my party or my organization knew anything about them until Friday," Trudeau said.

"And when we found out about these serious charges, the correct steps were taken for Mr. Tabbara to remove himself from the Liberal Party of Canada caucus."

Trudeau essentially delivered the same answer when pressed by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in question period today to say whether he knew anything at all about the matter before that date.

"We learned about this issue — the arrest, the charges, everything that had happened — on Friday," the PM said. "We take this issue very seriously."

Tabbara, the past chair of the Commons subcommittee on international human rights, was arrested in Guelph, Ont. on April 10, but the police remained tight-lipped about the high-profile case until asked about the MP's arrest by the media last week.

CBC News and Global reported news of the arrest last Friday.

The Guelph Police Service has said it will not comment on a matter that is "before the courts."

Tabbara was charged with two counts of assault, one count of "break and enter and commit an indictable offence" and one count of criminal harassment.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau is questioned about the arrest of a Liberal MP 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says no one in the Liberal Party knew about the charges against Marwan Tabbara — the Liberal MP for Kitchener South-Hespeler who faces charges of assault, break and enter and criminal harassment — until last Friday. 0:51

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said today he learned about the arrest of his former caucus colleague through media reports.

When asked if he — as the minister responsible for the country's national police force — should have known about the arrest earlier, he said Tabbara had an obligation to tell his leader and his party that he was facing such serious allegations.

"I think there is a responsibility on every member of this house to bring such information forward. That information about the charges being laid [was] not brought to our attention until the member did so," Blair told reporters. (A spokesperson for Tabbara confirmed in a statement to the media Friday that the MP had been arrested.)

"I think every member has that responsibility to report to this house and to their leader the circumstances that they find themselves in," Blair said. "I only became aware of that when the media reported it."

WATCH | Bill Blair says he knew nothing of charges against backbench MP

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he learned about the arrest of fellow Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara through media reports. 0:47

After news of his arrest was made public, Tabbara said he is seeking counselling for anxiety and depression.

"Other than to state unequivocally that every incident of violence is unacceptable and inexcusable, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further while this matter is before the court," he said in a media statement.

Tabbara's next court appearance is set for June 19.

Before his election, Tabbara worked in construction and as a line supervisor at a Frito-Lay plant. He immigrated to Canada from Lebanon as a child to flee that country's civil war.

WATCH | Andrew Scheer asks Trudeau about MP's arrest

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer questions Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara, who was charged with assault and criminal harassment in April. 0:40

It's not the first time the party has had to deal with allegations of misconduct against Liberal caucus and party members.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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