Taleeb Noormohamed ’98 thinks there’s a serious misinformation problem in Canada.
“Any ridiculous idea, if said by the right person or communicated with the right TikTok video, all of a sudden can make up fact,” says Noormohamed. “If there is one thing that really keeps me awake at night, it is how easily some have managed to fall into this trap.”
In September 2021, Noormohamed was elected to the Canadian House of Commons representing Vancouver Granville as one of 338 members of Parliament. Sitting on Canada’s Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, he works on understanding and addressing misinformation with policy.
“One of the pieces of important work we’re doing right now at our national security committee is really looking in detail at what Russia has been doing in terms of feeding disinformation into whether it’s Canadian elections, whether it’s vaccine hesitancy,” says Noormohamed.
His first 15 weeks since taking office have included resettling Afghan refugees, redeveloping a Jewish community center for improved affordable housing and childcare, and investigating the convoy of truckers who protested vaccine and COVID mandates in early 2022. The convoy received donations through crowdfunding agencies like GoFundMe.
“During the trucker convoy in Canada, there was a real question as to where some of this money was coming from,” says Noormohamed. “We very quickly started to see that there were ties between the organizations that had funded Jan. 6 and some of what we were seeing in Canada. What we’ve now quickly been able to do is have an act ensuring that where there are suspicious transactions coming through crowdfunding sources, those have to be publicly disclosed.”
As a Princeton undergraduate, Noormohamed completed an independent concentration called International Relations of Islamic Civilizations. He had no clue what he wanted to do in the future, but he was sure he wanted to have an impact.
“I was pre-med for a hot second, and then that ended pretty quickly,” says Noormohamed. “I had always been interested in politics. I always thought maybe one day I’ll run for office, but maybe not.”
Prior to campaigning, Noormohamed held many different positions in business, nonprofits, and government. Among other roles, he reviewed the investigation of the Air India Flight 182 bombing for Public Safety Canada in 2005, served as a vice president of the organizing committee that set up the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and in 2020 was the CEO of Jane, an online fashion marketplace selling designer clothing, furniture, and jewelry.
“The common thread is if there is a complex, difficult situation, there’s nothing that I love more than helping to try and find a solution that’s actually going to be something that brings people together,” says Noormohamed.
Noormohamed himself experienced the effects of misinformation while running for office, a campaign he describes as “grueling” and “negative.”
“Waking up to campaign signs with words like ‘jihad’ on them, people calling you an ‘effing terrorist,’ people telling you to go back home, these things stay with you,” says Noormohamed, who was born in Ottawa. “You had all kinds of remnants of what happened in the United States flowing into the Canadian political environment.”
Over his time in office, he wants to continue improving the ways people communicate with each other.
“Trying to make sure that we are causing people to think critically, that we are enabling people to think and to be thoughtful in their decision making, even if it’s uncomfortable, is something that I think is incumbent in all of us who are in the privileged position of being elected to office,” says Noormohamed.