Nova Scotia cabinet minister makes first statement as husband gets bail

By The Canadian Press
January 5, 2017 - 2:15pm

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's immigration minister thanked "the entire community" for its support Thursday, as her husband was released on bail on charges he assaulted, threatened and choked her on New Year's Eve.

In her first public statement since the alleged incident, Lena Diab spoke in a quiet, halting voice as she described enduring a "very tragic, sad, private and personal matter."

"I am grateful for the support that I have received from the entire community," she said after a cabinet meeting. "As always, I will continue to be focused on the very good work that we are doing in this very beautiful province of ours."

The cabinet minister and entrepreneur declined to respond to questions, but colleagues offered their support.

Diab's husband, Maroun Diab, was released on a series of conditions in Halifax provincial court Thursday.

Under a court order, he is prohibited from having any contact with Lena Diab and two other people, unless a lawyer is involved. He must not possess any weapons or consume alcohol, and he must not come within 100 metres of the Diab family home in Halifax.

As well, Maroun Diab must tell police if he changes his phone number or address, and he can't use any controlled substances without a prescription.

On Tuesday, Halifax police confirmed the 58-year-old was arrested early New Year's Day after they received a call shortly before midnight from the Diabs' home near Mount Saint Vincent University.

He was later charged with assaulting, choking and uttering threats toward Lena Diab. He also faces two counts of uttering threats toward two other people.

Premier Stephen McNeil declined to comment on the case Thursday, except to say that his "love and support" was with his colleague.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said she didn't want to comment on Diab's situation, but she took the opportunity to say domestic violence continues to be an insidious crime that affects people from all walks of life.

"It doesn't matter ... what profession you come from or what culture you have," said Bernard, who was once the head of Alice Housing, which offers long-term housing for women and children leaving abusive relationships.

"Domestic violence is an issue that pervades families from all walks of life, everywhere. I saw that in my (previous) career. And now I continue to see it."

Bernard, known for her blunt-spoken style, said too many women fail to report domestic because it is such a difficult "leap of faith."

"Many women simply do not come forward, and they need to come forward ... because there is help there."

The community services minister went on to describe initiatives the province has taken to improve supports for those trying to escape domestic violence, including increased funding for shelters, transition houses and family resource centres.

"My heart goes out to her and her family," Bernard said, referring to Diab. "I know they are struggling. Like many women before her, she will come through this."

Lena Diab, a lawyer and business owner, was appointed Nova Scotia's first female justice minister after winning office in October 2013 in a Halifax-area riding. She has four children and one grandchild.

Maroun Diab is scheduled to return to Halifax provincial court on Feb. 9.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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