BQ leader Blanchet doubles down on Islamophobic comments about federal minister

BQ leader Blanchet defends his Islamophobic comments about a cabinet minister, arguing he merely repeated what other reports from Canadian extremist group Rebel Media.

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet is standing by comments he made about Transport Minister Omar Alghabra earlier this month that sparked criticism he was trying to tar the new cabinet member with Islamophobic innuendo.

Blanchet addressed the blowback nearly two weeks after Alghabra expressed disappointment in what he dubbed a harmful and "dangerous game" of insinuation by the Bloc.

Blanchet says his earlier statement that questions over Alghabra's association with what the Bloc called "the political Islamic movement" were made politely and as part of a "normal process" of scrutiny.

He says those questions were rooted in previous stories by national and provincial media outlets, and that the government should respond to ongoing questions from Quebecers about Alghabra's former role as head of the Canadian Arab Federation.

On Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called on Blanchet during the daily question period to apologize to his fellow MP across the virtual aisle.

Alghabra has faced attempts to sow doubt in his background before, with Conservative Sen. Denise Batters apologizing to the Saudi Arabia-born parliamentarian after she wondered aloud why media hadn't questioned the then-parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister about his place of birth.

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