Hussein Hoballah, Montreal
During his visit to Montreal, Mayor of Brampton, Ontario and federal Conservative-Party-leadership candidate Mr Patrick Brown met the city’s Muslim community. An iftar was held at the Château Kabab restaurant in West Island, joining Brown and dozens of imams and community activists. The candidate then visited several mosques in the city, making progressive stances.
We met him during his stopover at Masjid Ahlul-Bayt, and he emphasised he would fight Bill 21, calling on the community to help him “change the Conservative Party and to elect a leader who will kick Islamophobia from the party.” Brown also asked, “If we can help refugees in Ukraine, why can’t we help in Yemen?” He also wondered, “If we can help refugees in Ukraine so quickly, why can’t we help in Palestine?.. I was the first Canadian politician to make a public statement on what happened [last] to al-Aqsa.”
Brown as well emphasised this: “If you want to change the Conservative Party to be one that stands with the community, you have to join the party. You have the choice between a far-right, Trump-like Conservative government and one that is a friend to the community.”
Question : How would you like to introduce yourself to the Muslim community in Quebec
and in Canada in general?
Answer : I think I am well-known in the Muslim community in Ontario, but to the community in Quebec, I am a friend, and the community needs a friend. Right now in Quebec the community has faced Islamophobia, violence and discrimination, and they need a politician with the courage to stand up for them, and I will – without hesitation. I will fight Bill 21, Islamophobia and discrimination without hesitation because I believe a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and everyone should be feeling the same.
Question : It’s not easy for the Muslim community, who have been voting for the Liberal Party for the 34 past years, to change and vote for the Conservatives. What would you like to say to them?
Answer : Right now I am asking you to help me change the Conservative Party. I am asking for help to elect a leader who will kick Islamophobia from the party. I understand the Conservative party has made the stakes; that’s what I am trying to change. This is a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party. On one side, you’ve got Pierre Poilievre, who supports Bill 21, who did a press conference trying to ban the niqab, and whose campaign manager had a press conference called the ‘barbaric tipline,’ which is trying to target Muslim Canadians. He actively supports Rebel Media, which is a hate-website against Muslims. And then you have myself, who has a champion for the community, a champion against Islamophobia, Bill 21 and discrimination.
This is a very stark choice, and the Muslim community have a choice, they can sit on the sidelines and allow an Islamophobic candidate to win the leadership, or they can participate and make sure that a friend to the community wins. That’s the choice. This is not about the general election yet, for the general election, I have to earn your vote, and I hope that I show you over three years how my leadership will be different than what they’ve been accustomed to. Right now, this is not about the next federal election. This is about what type of Conservative-Party leader you want. Do you want to see one who has a history of working for the community or someone who has a history of pushing the community down?
Question : The Conservative Party has had an ideology that for the past decades, is it a personal position or is it the party’s? Can you change that position?
Answer : The leader sets the position, and so if you elect a leader who’s a friend to the community, you change the position.
Question : But within the party do you have supporters beside the Muslim community? Are you going to divide the party with this position?
Answer : No, I did the same thing in Ontario, when I won the party leadership, and I required the party to stand against Islamophobia. It’s been done in Ontario, I can do it on a national level. I continue to believe there are more people in the party and around the country who share my belief in an inclusive Conservatism.
Question : There are some concerns in the community that though Mr Patrick Brown is a very good choice for the community, he may not be so for the party. So the party may choose, one day, to vote him out.
Answer : The power in the party is based on the membership, so of the existing membership I would not be the most popular, but that’s why I need a lot of new people to sign up; the same thing we did in Ontario. Of the existing small membership, they want a Trump-like character, like Pierre, but we’re going to grow the party. My goal is to sign up more new members that exist in the party. Let’s give an example, this riding right here, there are only 50 members, while I am paced to settle in this riding maybe a thousand members, so why I am worried about the fifty when there’s a much bigger tent?
Question : If you get elected prime minister of Canada, what will your plan to fight Bill 21 in Quebec be?
Answer : If I am elected prime minister of Canada, I would immediately have Canada present intervener status in the court case; it’s not a fair fight right now. It’s the Government of Quebec with unlimited legal resources against small charities, raising money off the backs of racialised communities. If the Government of Quebec wants to fight on religious freedom, then the prime minister will have a fight. I will use every tool and resource at the disposal of the Government of Canada to make sure that Bill dies.
Question : But will you be able to move on with that when the notwithstanding clause exists?
Answer : I will take it to court. I don’t believe the notwithstanding clause can overrule fundamental principles that are foundational to the country. I would use every tool to obstruct the building for that bill to exist. I cannot accept discrimination.
Question : I would like now to talk a little bit about the external policy of Canada and the Conservative Party regarding the $15 billion deal that was done with Saudi by the Harper government. As prime minister, will you keep that deal, or will you scrap it? The Saudis are now killing Yemenis, Bahrainis and even Saudis with Canadian arms.
Answer : I have to know the contractual details of that deal, and I am not aware of what exit revisions exist for Canada. I have spoken about the genocide happening in Yemen. I am one of the few politicians in the country who are speaking out that Canada needs to stand in solidarity against this. If we can help refugees in Ukraine, why can’t we help in Yemen? So I will see whatever tools we have and use them to make sure that Canada can be an ally to those who are being persecuted in Yemen.
Question : The same question here regarding Palestine. As you mentioned, in one week and a half Canada was there to help the Ukrainian refugees and now even the military every day. While in Palestine, we have seen for over 70 years, many cities have been occupied by the Israeli forces, and they’re recognised by the UN as occupied territories. Canada hasn’t done anything. Do you see double standards here?
Answer : I do. That’s why I have been speaking out against the violence in Palestine,
And if we can help refugees in Ukraine so quickly which I fully support given the Russian invasion, we should also be able to help with refugees from Palestine, Yemen, and Afghanistan.? I was the first Canadian politician to make a public statement on what happened to al-Aqsa.
Question : What will you do to help the Palestinian people have – at least – their land back? We don’t want to talk about other issues there. Their land is occupied, now Canada is helping the Ukrainians to fight the occupation and aggression of the Russians, but as prime minister, what will you do to the Palestinian people who have been suffering for over 70 years? They are under occupation and are getting killed every day.
Answer : I think Canada needs to have a balanced foreign policy and far too often has not been balanced in the Middle East. I recognise the two-state solution, Palestine’s right to exist and Israel’s right to exist. Canada should be a peacekeeper; far too often I feel that Canada is simply replicating the position of Washington DC and Donald Trump. I hope we can have an independent thoughtful Canadian foreign policy that focuses on peace in the Middle East.
Question : Do you think Canada has the ability to have a separate policy from that of the US? We see that they follow the States step by step, like in the case of Ukraine, Palestine, Israel and Syria.
Answer : I am not interested in being a sheep that follows others. If I am prime minister, I am going to do what I feel is right.
Question : I remember one time there was an issue about Lebanon and Israel. The community in Hamilton raised the issue to one of the MPs. He said you can’t imagine what former US Attorney General John Ashcroft warned against: If Canadians do something that the US doesn’t like, they will be under siege, and the borders will be closed, as what happened to Chrétien when he didn’t participate in the Iraq invasion during Saddam Hussein’s era.
Answer : I do a lot of work with the Lebanese community. I’ve visited Lebanon with Islamic Relief Canada and spent time there. I think that there are a lot of good people there and that Canada hasn’t had a balanced foreign policy in regard to Lebanon.
Question : What would a fair policy towards Lebanon, for example, be?
Answer : If there’s a life lost in Lebanon, it’s tragic. If there’s a life lost to Israel, it’s tragic. The violence is to be opposed wherever it happens. Empathy doesn’t exist only one way.
Question : What will your position regarding moving the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem be? The party supports it.
Answer : If I am prime minister, I will not be moving the embassy.
Question : Do you think the Muslim community is well represented in the government? What will you do if you are elected prime minister?
Answer : I hope that there will be a strong presence of Muslim Canadian candidates holding my cabinet, senate and government. You’ll see the community in my government, which I want to look like Canada. I want the beauty of the mosaic of Canada to be embedded in the institutions of government, both elected and non-elected.
Question : Would you consider, for example, having hijabis run for the elections with you?
Answer : Of course, why not?
Question : What would you like to say at the end of this interview?
Answer : If you want to change the Conservative Party to be one that stands with the community, you have to join the party. You have the choice between a far-right, Trump-like Conservative government and one that is a friend to the community, and the way to sign up a vote is to go to: https://fighterleaderwinner.ca/en/
If you join by June 3rd, you can change the course of Canadian history. Otherwise, who knows what’s going to happen to Canada when there’s a change in government?