Canadian government official uses threats of criminal prosecution to silence critics of ruling party politician

Aslam Nathoo(R) on the campaign trail with Taleeb Noormohamed in 2019.

A senior Canadian government official on Thursday used threats of criminal prosecution to silence critics of a controversial ruling party politician.

Aslam Nathoo, a director at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, went after social media users who mocked Taleeb Noormohamed, the candidate who narrowly won the Vancouver Granville riding for the ruling Liberal Party.

It came to light during the campaign that Noormohamed had bought and sold 21 homes within a year of buying them since 2005.

The news about Noormohamed’s real estate flipping broke a day after the Liberal Party promised an anti-flipping tax in an effort to address Canada’s growing housing crisis.

Noormohamed’s behaviour was mocked on social media, with dozens of memes poking fun at the Liberal politicians real estate activities.

Nathoo, a former Liberal Party organizer and a long time friend of Noormohamed, appears to have taken offence at some social media posts that made fun of Noormohamed for potentially having evicted tenants.

“Do you have hard and irrefutable evidence to back this claim up? Because if not, you’re definitely into defamatory libel,” Nathoo responded to one user on Twitter. “A defamatory libel is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published. S298(1) crim code”

While one user removed their tweets following Nathoo’s threats, many others expressed their contempt at Nathoo for trying to intimidate Noormohamed’s critics into silence.

“Trying to intimidate people is thuggery. Your friend is a politician – get used to seeing 4 years of smearing, spurious, speculative, untrue, and sometimes silly SATIRE,” one Vancouver Granville voter wrote. “But don’t try to intimidate us, the voters. We have a right to know if Taleeb evicted Canadians from homes.”

This latest incident involving Canadian government officials silencing Liberal Party critics comes even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to push ahead with a controversial set of bills that critics say will lead to Internet censorship in Canada[1]

“The proposed approach does not strike an appropriate balance between addressing online harms and safeguarding freedom of expression,” University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist wrote in his submission to the government’s consultation on the bills.

“The proposed approach also threatens to harm the very groups it purports to protect. Without full due process and with clear incentives to remove content, there are real fears that the rules will be used to target BIPOC communities and vulnerable groups,” Prof. Geist warned “Those groups could be silenced by a process that is weaponized by purveyors of hate with their voices removed due to poorly conceived rules that do not feature adequate due process.”
“The government should be asking a simple question with respect to many of its proposals: would Canadians be comfortable with the same measures being implemented countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, or Iran,” Geist writes. “If the answer is no (as I argue it should be), the government should think twice before risking its reputation as a leader in freedom of expression.”

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