Liberal candidate apologizes for statements on Middle East during debate
The Liberal candidate for the riding of Kitchener South-Hespeler apologized Thursday for two statements he made earlier in the week at a debate.
During Monday’s forum, which was organized by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Marwan Tabbara said that Jean Chretien refused to send troops into Afghanistan when he was prime minister.
“In 2003 … he said ‘I will not go into Afghanistan, I will not go into Iraq,” Tabbara said.
“What happened in 2006? Harper follows and he goes into Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In fact, Canada began sending troops to Afghanistan in 2001.
In an interview with CTV News, Tabbara said he misspoke during the debate and only meant to illustrate that he, personally, only sees war as a “last resort”.
“I did say something that was incorrect, and I really apologize,” he said.
Asked about his current understanding of Canada’s role in Iraq, the first-time candidate replied “I don’t have all that information. I’m only a candidate right now, so I couldn’t comment.”
He went on to say that he studied Middle Eastern politics while in university and understands the instability in the region.
“What some people aren’t understanding is (that) you need to take some research into understanding some of this stuff that’s going on in the Middle East,” he said.
Tabbara’s statement was also challenged at the debate, by Conservative candidate Marian Gagne.
He replied by asking “So is bombing Syrian children OK?”
In an interview on Thursday, Gagne said she was “shocked and appalled” by Tabbara’s remarks.
“The comments were so disturbing,” she said.
“I do appreciate that he apologized, but it still makes me wonder about the underlying thought process of the Liberal Party.”
Later in the day Thursday, Tabbara issued a statement again apologizing for what he said.
“I apologize unreservedly for my disrespectful comments in yesterday’s debate and for insinuating that the Canadian Armed Forces are bombing Syrian civilians,” he said.
“This is false and I am retracting my comments. I have the highest respect for the men and women in our Armed Forces. ISIL represents a real and serious threat to security in the region and beyond.”
For his part, NDP candidate Lorne Bruce said he wasn’t sure why Tabbara was talking about the issue at all.
“We were very much focused on economics at the time,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure how he got there during that conversation.”
Green Party candidate David Weber also took part in Monday’s forum. He did not respond to a request for comment before this story was published.