Diversity Minister condemns CRTC for not severing ties with consultant under fire for tweets

Needed but questions remain regarding how Canadian Heritage and CRTC decisions to provide funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre were made. Recommended by officials (“activists on a pension”) and/or pushed by the political level:

Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen says he is “surprised and disappointed” by the federal broadcasting regulator’s decision not to ban an anti-racism organization that employs Laith Marouf, a consultant who has been widely condemned for a series of derogatory tweets about “Jewish white supremacists” and francophones.

The Minister made his comments on Friday to the Commons heritage committee, which had summoned him so he could explain how his department’s anti-racism unit had granted the organization, called the Community Media Advocacy Centre, a contract to run an anti-racism project in which Mr. Marouf was to play a key role.

CMAC has been paid over $500,000 to participate in proceedings held by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada’s broadcasting regulator. Most of the money was provided by the Broadcast Participation Fund, an independent body set up by the CRTC to administer payments to public-interest groups taking part in those proceedings.

The Broadcast Participation Fund told The Globe and Mail in a statement on Friday that it was “currently reviewing the CMAC matter.” The fund is paid into by broadcasting companies, which have no influence over who receives the money.

Opinion: Ahmed Hussen demands to know how someone else let his government partner with an apparent antisemite

A spokeswoman for the CRTC said on Thursday that the regulator would not ban CMAC from its proceedings because it would be inappropriate “to establish lists of parties that may or may not participate.”

At Friday’s committee hearing, Mr. Hussen told MPs that he had been warned by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather about Mr. Marouf’s offensive tweets on July 19th or 20th – a month before the Minister spoke out publicly.

Facing sharp questioning from MPs, the Minister admitted that the Heritage Department’s vetting process failed when it decided to pay $133,000 to CMAC to run the anti-racism project.

Mr. Hussen apologized to Jewish and francophone communities, which he said Mr. Marouf has “continuously attacked with his hateful comments.”

He said it was “completely unacceptable” that “this individual fell through the cracks” and was approved to run a government-funded project. The Heritage Department, which he said approved the funding before he became Diversity and Inclusion Minister, has now cancelled the initiative and is asking CMAC for its money back.

“The antisemitic, hateful and xenophobic comments made by Laith Marouf … I condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Mr. Hussen said. “The fact that the Community Media Advocacy Centre received federal funding while employing Mr. Marouf is unacceptable and should quite frankly never have happened.”

CMAC describes itself as a non-profit organization supporting the “self-determination of Indigenous, racialized and disabled peoples in the media through research, relationship-building, advocacy and learning.”

Mr. Marouf denies he is antisemitic or racist. He said in an interview that CMAC is currently in discussions with the Heritage Department about the contract. CMAC and Mr. Marouf had already started the project when it was terminated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in August that the government has launched a complete review of funding for CMAC. He added that it was unacceptable “that federal dollars have gone to this organization that has demonstrated xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.”

Mr. Hussen told MPs that CMAC would be blocked from applying for any future funding. He said he has introduced tighter vetting procedures for such contracts, including an obligation to check social media profiles for hateful speech. And he said his department’s contracts now include a clause that allows them to be terminated if hate speech comes to light. He said he has paused all new departmental contracts until more checks are made.

Jewish groups, including the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, called on the CRTC to follow the government’s lead in severing ties with Mr. Marouf and CMAC, and to ban the organization from taking part in regulatory proceedings.

“Laith Marouf’s hateful statements should have disqualified him, and CMAC, from access to any government funding, let alone to money from an anti-racism program,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “It is imperative that the values promoted by the government be reflected in the orientation and work of their partners outside government.”

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh told the heritage committee that CRTC chairman Ian Scott and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez should both be summoned to appear before the committee to explain their organizations’ links to CMAC.

Rachael Thomas, a Tory MP, and Melissa Lantsman, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, issued a statement saying “Canadians deserve answers” from Mr. Rodriguez.

Source: Diversity Minister condemns CRTC for not severing ties with consultant under fire for tweets

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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