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Canadian politician Taleeb Noormohamed ’98 speaks on international affairs

<h6>Photo courtesy of Ryan Konarska '25</h6>
Photo courtesy of Ryan Konarska '25

On Friday, Member of Canadian Parliament Taleeb Noormohamed ’98 spoke at Princeton Canadians Club event, “Democracy in 2022: A Princeton education in the service of humanity”. The talk was moderated by visiting journalism lecturer Razia Iqbal, and touched on various topics of international affairs, such as Canada’s position in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the Middle East.

The talk also discussed Canadian domestic affairs, such as the government’s reaction to the trucker’s Freedom Convoy, which occupied the Canadian capital city of Ottawa earlier this year in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, controversy over the Trudeau government enacting the Canadian Emergencies Act to disperse the protests, and the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canadian society. 

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Noormohamed opened the event discussing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the ways in which Canada responded to the invasion via sanctions and other measures. 

“There is a very large Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, and so there is a natural desire for Canada to do something in Ukraine,“ Noormohamed said. The invasion, he told the audience, was “on all accounts an illegal, unlawful invasion, likely [a] commission of war crimes.” 

Noormohamed elaborated on the Canadian response. “We are not by any stretch of the imagination a military power, right? But that doesn’t mean that today’s conflicts are fought on the battlefield with tanks and planes,“ he said. “But there is a financial element to this, and Canada is leading the world, frankly, in terms of the imposition of sanctions, the imposition of the real constraints on the Russian economic system, as a result of pushing Europe to act.” 

“I think there is both a realization and an uncomfortable acceptance that we are now going to have to do things that we previously [thought] we didn’t want to do,“ he said, in reference to the actions taken by Canada and its NATO allies. 

The focus of the conversation then shifted to affairs in the Middle East, particularly discussing the country of Afghanistan. 

In reference to Canada’s support of Afghan refugees and the new Taliban government, Noormohamed said that the Canadian government is focusing on supporting Afghanistan civilians through programs like healthcare, and helping citizens with their basic needs.

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“This is a very complex problem that does not have a silver bullet. It requires a nuanced, thoughtful and comprehensive approach that is going to have to ask the question: How do we ensure that the very basic institutional investments that support humanitarian work do not fall?” he said. 

“I don’t have the silver bullet. I don’t have the answers. You cannot expect Canada, [n]or anybody else, to engage with folks when [the Taliban] cannot be trusted to keep the word that they use,” he continued. 

Noormohamed also commented on the controversial decision by the Trudeau government to invoke the Emergencies Act, in response to the occupation of Ottawa by the Freedom Convoy. 

“As somebody who sits on the Public Safety and National Security Committee of Parliament, I can tell you that what I saw in Ottawa was an occupation, this was not some peaceful protest of a bunch of folks sitting around,” he said. 

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Noormohamed spoke further about his personal experience during the Freedom Convoy’s time in Ottawa, saying “as parliamentarians, we walked through [the Freedom Convoy] to get to parliament every single day. I can tell you personally, the number of racial epithets that I experienced during that three week period were probably more on a per-day basis than any other period of my life.” 

Noormohamed concluded the talk by speaking about his experiences as a Muslim in Canada. Noormohamed is the first Muslim Member of Parliament to represent the province of British Columbia. 

“There are a vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians that are very proud that there is a vibrant, healthy, Muslim community.” But, he added, “there are fringe elements, who will continue to trade on anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamaphobia to advance their own causes.”

Ovinabo Banerjee ’25 told the Daily Princetonian after the event’s conclusion that he thought the discussion was “very thought-provoking.” 

“As an American, learning and understanding a bit more about Canadian politics was also super interesting,“ he said. 

A Q&A with Princeton students followed the talk, with approximately 15 students in attendance. Gabriel Duguay ’22, a co-Prime Minister and Treasurer of the Princeton Canadians Club, also spoke to the ‘Prince’ after the event. 

“I thought that this was a wonderful event. I thought that the discussion of policy issues was very frank and honest, and hearing a world-class journalist go head-to-head with a politician was a rare treat,” he said. 

Sidney Singer is an Assistant News Editor from Nova Scotia, Canada, who has covered a variety of news on and around campus. She can be reached at sidneysinger@princeton.edu, on Twitter @sidneylsinger, or on Instagram @sidneysinger. 

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