Patrick Brown’s campaign team is saying his views were misrepresented after Brown told a Montreal-based outlet serving Muslim Canadians that Palestinian refugees deserved the same help from Canada as Ukrainians. 

In an interview with the Arabic-language outlet Sada al-Mashrek last weekend, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership candidate and Brampton mayor said that Canada should do more to aid Palestinian, Afghanistani and Yemeni refugees, just as it has done for Ukrainian refugees.

“If we can help refugees in Ukraine, why can’t we help in Yemen?” said Brown. “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.”

Last month after clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Brown tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by the violence occurring in Jerusalem.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada said that “(i)t is disingenuous to compare the situation in Ukraine to the riots at the Al Aqsa mosque. Israel will continue to defend itself from terrorist incitement, just as Ukraine will continue to defend itself from Russian military aggression.”

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said he was concerned with “disturbing comments attributed to Mr. Brown” from the interview.

When asked about what he would do to help Palestinians have their land back, Brown advocated for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine recognizing “Palestine’s right to exist and Israel’s right to exist.” 

Brown also said that he would not move the Canadian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if he were elected prime minister. Former Conservative leaders Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer both promised to move the embassy if they were elected.

“Every country has the right to choose what its capital should be, and Israel has chosen Jerusalem,” Brown said in his interview with Sada al-Mashrek.

Continuing, Brown said, “Canada should be a peacekeeper – far too often I feel that Canada is simply replicating the position of Washington DC and Donald Trump.” He added, “I hope that we can have an independent, thoughtful Canadian foreign policy that focuses on peace in the Middle East.”

On Monday, Brown’s team said that the published interview transcript was not an accurate portrayal of his views. When asked to clarify his stance, Brown’s team doubled down by suggesting that his views “were not accurately represented in the article.”

Brown, who is seeking the CPC leadership, said that “(t)he leader sets the position, and if you elect a leader who’s a friend to the community, you change the position. I continue to believe there are more people in the party and around the country who share my belief in an inclusive Conservatism.”

Brown also took the opportunity to take shots at rival CPC leadership contender Pierre Poilievre. 

“If you want to change the conservative party to be one that stands with the community, you have to join the party,” he said. “You have a choice between a far-right Trump-like conservative and one that is a friend to the community.”

He also accused Poilievre of supporting Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans public workers from wearing religious symbols. 

“This is a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party,” Brown said. “Pierre supports Bill 21 and had a press conference on banning the niqab. He actively supports Rebel Media, which is a hate-website against Muslims.”

Poilievre has called Bill 21 “wrong,” adding that “(i)f anyone proposed it federally, my government would not allow it to pass. I respect Quebec’s right to make its own laws, but hope the province repeals the bill.”

“The Muslim community have a choice,” Brown concluded. “They can sit on the sidelines and allow an Islamaphobic candidate to win the leadership or they can participate and make sure that a friend to the community wins.”

The new CPC leader will be determined by a mail-in vote on Sept. 10.

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