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Ontario MP Marwan Tabbara 'stepping back' from Liberal causcus after assault, criminal harassment

© Marwan Tabbara/FacebookTabbara, 35, is charged with two counts of assault, one count of break and enter and commit an indictable offence and one count of criminal harassment, police said Friday.

Member of Parliament Marwan Tabbara said he is “stepping back from the Liberal caucus” but not resigning as an MP after revelations he was criminally charged with assault, break and enter and criminal harassment.

Tabbara, 35, was charged with two counts of assault, one count of break and enter and commit an indictable offence and one count of criminal harassment — back in April — for an alleged incident in a neighbouring Ontario riding.

Neither the Guelph Police nor the Trudeau government revealed the charges to the public until the National Post and two other media organizations directly asked police about them on Thursday.

“As a proud Canadian who came to this country with his family to escape the violence of war, I deplore violence in all its forms,” Tabbara said in a written statement late Friday.

“I personally believe strongly in the right of every individual to live a life free of the hurt and trauma of physical, verbal or emotional abuse,” he said.

“I continue to receive counselling and treatment for anxiety and depression, which I have been living with for some time.”

Tabbara, MP for Kitchener South-Hespeler, chairs Parliament’s subcommittee on International Human Rights and sits on the special committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

He was arrested in Guelph, 90 kilometres west of Toronto, on April 10.

Despite the serious nature of the allegations and charges, Guelph Police did not publicly report the arrest at the time, not even with the MP’s name removed.

Guelph Police Constable Brian Murphy confirmed the arrest of the Member of Parliament Friday but said little information could be released at this time, other than the basic charge information.

© Marwan Tabbara/FacebookLiberal MP Marwan Tabbara.

Police declined to answer follow-up questions, including whether the alleged assault victim and alleged criminal harassment victim are the same person; what the gender or genders of the alleged victim or victims are; and the alleged circumstance of the incident.

Nor was there an answer as to why the arrest was not publicly announced, although police did say the information is “a matter of public record.”

“I appreciate your inquiry however this is the information we are releasing at this time,” Murphy responded to those questions.

Later Murphy added: “This matter is before the courts and the Guelph Police Service will make no further comment.”

There is also a publication ban on details of the allegations, imposed by a judge at a bail hearing.

A Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson said prior to Tabbara’s statement that they are looking into the matter, but would not comment further and would not say whether the PMO was previously aware of the charges.

Tabbara’ next court appearance is scheduled for June 19, 2020.

Tabbara was first elected in 2015, when the riding was newly created. He was re-elected in 2019.

“There are mandatory steps that must be taken to address a criminal case, and those steps take time, particularly with delays due to the pandemic,” Tabbara said in his statement.

“Other than to state unequivocally that every incident of violence is unacceptable and inexcusable, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further while this matter is before the court.

“Meanwhile, I will continue to work diligently for my constituents, as their Member of Parliament, assisting them in accessing services and benefits to which they are entitled from their federal government,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Tabbara’s office said the MP would not be addressing the issue of his criminal charges.

His arrest was in the nearby riding of Guelph, held by fellow Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield.

This week, Tabbara posted a message on Facebook in regards to the sweeping anti-racism protests in Canada and the United States.

“Throughout our history many great advocates have fought long and hard for justice, equality and opportunity for all,” the Facebook post says. “We owe it to them, to ourselves and to the next generation to root out racism and discrimination. We must strive for true equality for every individual regardless of skin colour, race, religion and sexual orientation.”

“I too stand in solidarity with those striving for justice and equality,” he said. “It’s up to all of us, to do our part in striving for change and achieve equality for everyone.”

He last addressed Parliament on March 9 when he rose to discuss Canada’s economy.

In March, Tabbara had a COVID-19 scare after a United Nations official met with members of the Human Rights committee in Ottawa and soon after tested positive for COVID-19.

Kitchener South-Hespeler contains part of Cambridge and a section of Kitchener.

A Library of Parliament paper published in 2017 explained the legal and parliamentary context for an MP who has been criminally charged, but it concludes that “the laying of criminal charges against a member of the Senate or the House of Commons generally carries no immediate legal implications.”

The House of Commons has the authority to order a leave of absence or to suspend a member regardless of a charge, but the paper notes that “no member has ever been suspended because of criminal charges laid against them.” However, if an MP is convicted of an indictable offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years or more, s. 750(1) of the Criminal Code means they automatically lose their seat.

In any case, the House of Commons can always choose to expel a member by passing a resolution, but this power was last used in 1891, the paper says.

— With files from Brian Platt, Postmedia

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