A Conservative senator has apologized after facing harsh rebuke on Twitter for insinuating a Liberal MP's birthplace might affect his judgment on a Canadian diplomatic crisis.
Sen. Denise Batters said she wanted to clarify comments she made about Liberal MP Omar Alghabra's appearance on CBC's "Power and Politics" Wednesday and suggestions she made about his place of birth.
I absolutely did not intend to suggest that Mr. Alghabra's birthplace or background has any impact on his ability to represent Canadians on this, or any issue. That is not what I believe, nor what I meant to convey. 2/3— Sen. Denise Batters (@denisebatters) August 9, 2018
I apologize to Mr. Alghabra and to Canadians for my choice of words. I will delete the tweet after this thread is published. 3/3— Sen. Denise Batters (@denisebatters) August 9, 2018
Alghabra appeared on "Power and Politics" to discuss how Canada's ongoing spat with Saudi Arabia might affect London, Ont. manufacturers who are building light armoured vehicles for the Saudi government.
Alghabra, who is also the parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said he didn't have any information on the status of the deal, and spoke instead about the Liberal government's foreign policy of being vocal about human rights.
Batters had criticized the interview in a tweet, and said host Vassy Kapelos should have asked him about his birthplace of Saudi Arabia instead.
Alghabra tweeted back, saying he's a "proud Canadian" who has been consistent in defending human rights.
Batters later replied that she meant no offense, and that she simply thought Alghabra had a "unique perspective to offer."
But many on Twitter accused Batters of bigotry, including fellow Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, who said she should apologize and that Tory Leader Andrew Scheer should expel her from caucus.
This is beyond offensive. Shame on you. You do not represent the best of this country and have no business being in the Senate with bigotry.— Tricia Edgar (@tricialedgar) August 9, 2018
Are you sure you want to open this Pandora's box? I was surprised and disappointed when your party racially went after @MaryamMonsef now you are doing it again. What exactly are you trying to achieve questioning where an MP was born, no one questions your birthplace— Ray Leech (@RayLeech) August 9, 2018
It's this type of foolishness that makes me support abolishing the senate.— Mark David Evans (@MarkEvCanada) August 9, 2018
Its not a dog whistle when the whole 'frickin country can hear it... it's just straight up xenophobic bigotry— Adam Vaughan 🇨🇦 (@TOAdamVaughan) August 9, 2018
Tory backbencher Blaine Calkins responded to Batters by sharing a screengrab of a 2005 blog suggesting Alghabra was an "Islamist." The Liberal fired back at Calkins by saying he expected "this type of garbage from an online troll or bot not an MP."
The Tory MP later deleted the tweet and apologized for his "poor source," saying he was "unsure" about what he was reading.
Alghabra is of Syrian descent but was born in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with The Globe and Mail last year, he said he was known as a Syrian while in Saudi Arabia, but in Syria he was known as a Saudi.
"And in Canada, I'm a newcomer as well," Alghabra said. "All of my life I've lived in some form or another as the other."
Spokespeople for Alghabra said there would be no further comment. The MP later tweeted that he accepted Batters' apology and told her that this "was a lesson for all of us."
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