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Ex-PMO spokesman admits he wrongly suggested Muslim group had terrorist ties

OTTAWA - Former prime minister Stephen Harper's one-time communications director admits he was inaccurate when he suggested a Canadian Muslim group had ties to a terrorist organization.

Jason MacDonald makes the admission as part of a settlement in a libel suit launched two years ago by the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

The lawsuit was prompted by comments MacDonald made to the now-defunct Sun News Network after the council complained about a controversial rabbi who accompanied Harper on an official trip to the Middle East.

MacDonald dismissed the council's concerns on behalf of the Harper government, and accused the organization of having links to terrorism.

The council sought a public retraction, damages of up to $100,000 and a permanent injunction preventing MacDonald's words from being republished.

In a joint statement released Monday announcing settlement of the lawsuit, MacDonald accepts that his statement to Sun News "does not accurately reflect the activities" of the council.

He further accepts that the council is a "civil liberties and advocacy organization" for Canadian Muslims which does important work and which "categorically condemns terrorism, violent extremism and all individuals and groups who espouse violent goals."

Although Justin Trudeau's Liberals have since replaced Harper's Conservative administration, the federal government also issued a statement as part of the settlement, disavowing MacDonald's suggestion that the council had terrorist ties.

"The government of Canada affirms that the statement made about the NCCM does not reflect the official view of the government."

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