The National Council of Canadian Muslims is serving the Prime Minister’s Office with a libel notice, claiming that Stephen Harper’s communications director defamed the group in an interview earlier this month.
The NCCM is demanding “an unequivocal apology and retraction of the defamatory words” that Jason MacDonald, Harper’s communications director, used in an interview with Sun News Network on Jan. 16.
The notice quotes the offending statement as: “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to terrorist organization such as Hamas.”
The notice says MacDonald made the statement when asked about the NCCM’s objection to the inclusion of a particular rabbi on Harper’s official delegation to the Middle East.
The council had criticized the inclusion of Rabbi Daniel Korobkin because he introduced American activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who founded the group Stop Islamization of America, at a Toronto event last fall.
In its libel notice, the NCCM says MacDonald’s words “were meant or were understood to mean that NCCM is, gives material support to, and/or is affiliated with a criminal terrorist organization. These words are defamatory per se.”
The document notes that the federal government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.
“The defamatory words were stated maliciously in order to discredit and insult an organization that did nothing other than exercise its constitutional right to freedom of expression to criticize a decision made by the Prime Minister,” the notice states.
The notice is a first step toward what could become a formal libel lawsuit, in which the council “will seek damages, interest and costs against you,” referring to Harper and MacDonald.
Stephen Lecce, a spokesperson for the prime minister, told CTV News Tuesday that because “this matter may be the subject of litigation, we have no further comment.”
In the notice, the council says it is an “independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization” that has spent 14 years working on human rights and civil liberties issues and public advocacy on behalf of Canadian Muslims.
The group says MacDonald’s comments “were stated to discredit the NCCM’s reputation and undermine its ability to do its work.”