Trudeau Reiterates Support for Anti-Islamophobia Rep Despite Opposition Criticism

By Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.
January 31, 2023Updated: January 31, 2023

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reiterated his support for the government’s recently appointed representative to combat Islamophobia, despite receiving criticism from opposition parties for past comments she made that have been characterized as insulting toward Quebec.

“She is there to speak for the community, with the community, and build bridges across,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Jan. 30.

Trudeau made the comments after attending question period, where some MPs again criticized his appointment of Amira Elghawaby as the government’s first-ever Special Representative on Combating Islamophobia.

Elghawaby has received criticism for a 2019 opinion article she co-wrote that linked “anti-Muslim sentiment” to Quebec’s Bill 21, which banned certain government employees from wearing religious symbols at work. Her other past remarks have also sparked controversy, such as writing in a 2021 Toronto Star column that the British monarchy is “one of the most powerful symbols of racial oppression,” while calling for Canada to “sever ties” with it.

Responding to the criticism over her 2019 writings, Elghawaby recently said that she was merely citing a poll in the article and does not believe Quebecers are Islamophobic.

“Obviously, she has thought carefully over many years about the impacts that various pieces of legislation and various political positions have had on the community,” Trudeau said on Jan. 30.

“Her job now is to make sure that she’s helping the government and helping everyone.”

Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois have questioned Elghawaby’s appointment as an “inclusion” advisor based on her past remarks.

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre said that Elghawaby has “made comments against Quebeckers, police officers, and the Jewish people,” adding that Trudeau’s appointment of her is divisive.

“These comments are unacceptable and divisive, and it is incredible that, knowing this person had made these comments, Justin Trudeau would nevertheless name her to a position that supposedly is meant to fight racism,” Poilievre said on Jan. 27.


Bloc Québécois Party Leader Yves-François Blanchet previously demanded a meeting with Elghawaby over her comments about Quebec, which Trudeau said he would facilitate.

“I’d like to ask the prime minister, does he actually think that that appointment is going to be inclusive and bridge-building rather than divisive?” Blanchet asked in the House on Jan. 30.

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman also addressed the issue while speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill on Jan. 30, saying that she agrees with comments about Elghawaby made by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez told Radio-Canada on Jan. 27 that, as a Quebecker, he was “deeply hurt” by Elghawaby’s remarks.

“I am deeply insulted by her comments and expect her to retract them,” he said in French.

Lantsman said on Jan. 30 that it seems as though Elghawaby was appointed with “absolutely no vetting” being done beforehand.