Thomas Mulcair says the NDP candidate accused of misrepresenting the facts surrounding a Syrian family's tragic story is a person of integrity who will play a key role in his government.
On Friday, a CTV News reporter asked the NDP leader if Fin Donnelly, the incumbent candidate from British Columbia's Port Moody-Coquitlam riding, should apologize for, in her words, "misleading Canadians."
Donnelly gave numerous media interview last week alleging that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander did not take action to help bring the family of Alan Kurdi — the three-year-old boy whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach — to Canada.
Alan's five-year-old brother Galib and mother Rehan also drowned trying to get to Europe.
Donnelly said he hand-delivered a letter to Alexander in the House of Commons in March detailing the Kurdi family's plight. A copy of the letter published online does not mention Abdullah Kurdi, the boys' father, but rather his brother Mohammed, whose application for refugee status in Canada was returned after being deemed incomplete.
But Donnelly told The Huffington Post Canada in a statement Sunday that an attachment to the letter made it "very clear" that his constituent Tima Kurdi aimed to sponsor her brother Mohammed first, and then Abdullah.
"When Mohammed's application was rejected, Abdullah and his family felt a tremendous sense of desperation which resulted in this tragedy," he said in a statement.
'I couldn't be prouder'
Mulcair told the reporter Friday he did not agree with her "reading" of what happened.
"Look at the letter. The letter doesn't just talk about the uncle," he said. "The letter talks about the whole family."
The NDP leader said Donnelly was doing an "amazing job" for people in his riding and did his best to "save that family."
"That's what MPs do," Mulcair said. "I couldn't be prouder than to have someone of the strength, integrity, and hard work of Fin Donnelly as part of our caucus.
"And I'm looking forward to him being able to play a key role when we form government on Oct. 19."
CTV later published a story saying Donnelly had told reporters last week that Abdullah applied for refugee status. The NDP candidate has denied that he told media the federal government turned down an official sponsorship request.
Donnelly served in Mulcair's shadow cabinet as critic for Western Economic Diversification Canada and is considered a strong contender to make cabinet if the NDP forms government.
He faced accusations last week of ducking the media after more information on the Kurdis' situation came to light. The hashtag #WhereIsFin became a trending topic on Saturday.
A clip from a CTV report, in which Robert Fife stated Donnelly pointed fingers and then "got it wrong," also made the rounds on social media.
Donnelly, who attended a memorial service in Vancouver last weekend for the drowned boys and their mother, said in his statement to HuffPost that he was disappointed that some have responded to the story by "launching unfounded political attacks."
"I am disappointed that some people are responding with misinformation and finger-pointing," he said. "Surely our task is clear. We can — and must — take immediate and meaningful steps to prevent further tragedies."
Couple alleges Abdbullah was captain of vessel
Meanwhile, an Iraqi couple has gone public with allegations that Abdullah captained the boat that capsized, killing at least 12 people, including his family.
Abdullah, who is back in Syria, has denied those allegations, telling the Wall Street Journal the captain was a Turkish smuggler who abandoned the vessel after the engine stalled.
While he has publicly blamed the Canadian government for the tragedy, federal immigration officials say they received no application for asylum on his behalf.
With files from The Canadian Press
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