Trudeau says he learned about MP Marwan Tabbara's months-old arrest on Friday
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Tabbara should have told Trudeau, the Liberal caucus
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.
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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."
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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.
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It's not the first time the party has had to deal with allegations of misconduct against Liberal caucus and party members.
- In 2018, then Calgary-area MP Kent Hehr was allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus but was booted out of cabinet following a report on sexual harassment allegations levied against him.
- That same year, former Liberal MP Raj Grewal resigned from caucus to deal with a compulsive gambling problem. The Globe and Mail reported at the time that Grewal had accumulated debt amounting to more than $1 million.
- In December 2017, the deputy director of operations in the PMO, Claude-Éric Gagné, went on leave while a third party investigated allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
- In August 2017, Calgary MP Darshan Kang resigned from the Liberal caucus amid allegations of sexual harassment.
- In May 2016, Nunavut MP and former federal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo resigned from cabinet and the Liberal caucus over allegations he had a "consensual but inappropriate" relationship with a female staffer.
- And before the Liberals took office, Trudeau kicked two of his MPs — Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews — out of the caucus over allegations of harassment made by two New Democratic MPs.