Trudeau promises complete review of funding to anti-racism group after ‘vile’ tweets

Needed. Will be interesting to see how comprehensive the review will be and the degree to which the  the findings will be public and candid:

The federal government is conducting a “complete review” of funding to an anti-racism group whose senior consultant sent a series of tweets about “Jewish white supremacists,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

The government has put a stop to all funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre and is putting in place procedures “to make sure this never happens again,” he said at a press conference.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that federal dollars have gone to this organization that has demonstrated xenophobia, racism and antisemitism.”

Last week, Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen, who was also at the press conference, cut $133,000 in government funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre and suspended an anti-racism project it was overseeing after “reprehensible and vile” tweets posted by its senior consultant, Laith Marouf, came to light.

Trudeau’s comments come as other past funding for the organization is scrutinized.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said this week that he wants money provided to CMAC under the Canada Summer Jobs program in 2018 to be clawed back.

He said a grant application by CMAC for $2,882 under the program, which offers work experience to people aged 15-30 and is run by Employment and Social Development Canada, was reviewed at the time by his constituency office in Ville-Marie, Que.

CMAC was approved to receive that amount, but ultimately only got $795, according to a spokesman for Marci Ien, the minister for women, gender equality and youth, who publicly launched the program this year.

“Not a single cent of government money should go to organizations that harbour anti-Semitic views,” Miller said on Twitter. He said he has never met Marouf, whose views he called “despicable.”

A spokeswoman for Miller’s federal department said “clearly, this organization should not receive additional funding.”

“After funding had been allocated, Laith Marouf made antisemitic comments that are reprehensible and inconsistent with the objectives of the Canada Summer Jobs program,” Miller’s office added.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization appreciates Miller’s “clear and unambiguous statement regarding the importance of government funding not going to groups harbouring and espousing antisemitic views.”

“We call on the ministries involved to be transparent and provide details about their investigations into the systemic failures that led to this inappropriate funding in a timely fashion,” he added.

Opposition MPs are calling for a full audit of funding to CMAC from government departments and through federal programs, including for its involvement in proceedings run by Canada’s federal broadcasting regulator.

CMAC describes itself on its website 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.”

The Twitter account for Marouf, a consultant for the organization, is private. But a screenshot posted online shows a number of tweets with his photo and name.

One tweet said: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of (their) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”

Stephen Ellis, a lawyer for Marouf, distinguished between Marouf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists”‘ and Jews or Jewish people in general.

Marouf does not harbour “any animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group,” Ellis said in an email.

“While not the most artfully expressed, the tweets reflect a frustration with the reality of Israeli apartheid and a Canadian government which collaborates with it,” Ellis said.

Public records show that CMAC has received about $500,000 in funding since 2016 to act as a public interest group in proceedings run by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The money came from the Broadcast Participation Fund, an independent body that was stood up by the CRTC to pay for public interest groups’ participation in CRTC matters.

In 2021, CMAC also took part in CRTC consultations on regulations amending the accessibility reporting requirements for broadcasters and telecommunications companies.

According to publicly available documents detailing payments, Marouf and his wife, Gretchen King, whose name also appears on CMAC company filings, were both paid for taking part in the proceedings.

They were paid using money from a deferral account held by Bell, which the company agreed to have the CRTC distribute to public interest groups on its behalf. Bell declined a request for comment.

CMAC did not respond to requests for comment.

But Ellis, Marouf’s lawyer, said the centre’s work had been valuable and contributed greatly to the proceedings.

The lawyer said what “is very clear from CMAC’s filing and the CRTC decision is that if it were not for CMAC’s efforts, Indigenous, racialized and women disabilities groups would have been absent from the proceedings to rewrite CRTC policies to comply with the Accessible Canada Act and its clauses reaffirming the intersectionality of oppressions.”

Peter Julian, the NDP heritage critic, is calling for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and CRTC officials to appear at the House of Commons heritage committee when Parliament returns to discuss an apparent lack of “due diligence” before paying CMAC.

“It is obvious there was no vetting at all, and that raises a bunch of disturbing questions,” he said.

John Nater, the Conservative critic for Canadian heritage, also said the minister should answer questions before the committee. “We believe it imperative that the minister provide answers at committee and explain how this was allowed to happen.”

Fellow Tory MP Melissa Lantsman said she will present a petition from her constituents to the House of Commons asking for a public inquiry. She said an independent body should examine all historical funding to CMAC.

She criticized Rodriguez for not speaking out about the tweets. “The most vile thing about this is the silence,” she said.

Rodriguez declined to comment.

Tory MP Dan Albas, who sits on the Commons finance committee, said the government needs to examine all funding of CMAC.

“There has been radio silence over what they are going to do to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Source: Trudeau promises complete review of funding to anti-racism group after ‘vile’ tweets

Canadian Jewish community expectations:

“What I know is that the minister now has all the information, appreciated the challenge it poses, and has publicly committed to a series of remedies. We will judge him on what flows from that commitment over the coming days.”

During a press conference on Aug. 29, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino (Eglinton—Lawrence, Ont.) announced that the Heritage Department will conduct an extensive review of the funding being distributed through Ottawa’s anti-racism strategy to ensure no additional funds are directed to organizations or individuals who promote hateful content.

Fogel said the review will need to determine what deficiencies in the department’s decision-making process led to a grant being awarded to the CMAC. He added that CIJA will judge Hussen and the Liberal government based on the outcome of that review.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, says his organization will be satisfied if Housing and Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen’s ‘actions support his undertaking and commitment’ regarding the CMAC funding scandal. Photograph courtesy of the CIJA

“If, over the coming days, [Hussen’s] actions support his undertaking and commitment, I think we would be quite satisfied with his management of the issue. But there are many moving pieces,” said Fogel in the email.

On Aug. 23, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal, Que.) told the National Post thathe alerted Hussen about Marouf’s anti-Semitic social media posts before the issue was reported on widely, and argued action could have been taken more quickly.

Fogel suggested that an appearance by Hussen before the House Heritage Committee would provide a valuable opportunity to address the issues in an open and accountable way.

“There are many dimensions of the issue regarding which there is conflicting information, including when the minister became aware of the problem and what steps were taken to address it,” wrote Fogel. “I cannot speak to the timeline regarding when [Hussen] was first made aware of this specific issue. However, there are many possible explanations for the absence of visible action for a number of weeks. He may have referred it to the department. He may have required legal advice, since a legal contract had to be considered.”

Fogel said the federal government’s response to this funding scandal must include full disclosure about how the grant was awarded to CMAC, and a new protocol regarding future grants that shows the government “has translated its learning into a better way forward.”

“The goal should be not just the identification of where the process went wrong—and in this case, it went very wrong—but more importantly, what generic procedures should be put into place that will ensure such things do not happen in the future,” said Fogel in the email.

The Hill Times reached out to Hussen to ask about Housefather’s claim that swifter action could have been taken in regards to suspending the CMAC funding. A spokesperson for the minister responded that anti-Semitism, hate, and racism in all its forms have no place in Canada, and that Hussen’s office is leaving no stone unturned in this matter.

“We thank MP Housefather for bringing this individual to our attention, as our government does not tolerate this hatred, and we have informed CMAC that their funding was cut and their project was suspended,” read the emailed statement. “We have also instructed the department of Canadian Heritage to identify how CMAC was able to access funding in the first place, and to look for immediate solutions when it comes to properly vetting funding applicants, including any individuals they employ or partner with. Minister Hussen is working with his colleagues to ensure that programs that are both within and outside of his purview are assessed with strong processes, in order to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

The Hill Times contacted Canadian Heritage to ask about the vetting process in awarding government grants for organizations, and about how the process might be refined going forward, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman (Thornhill, Ont.), who is Jewish, told The Hill Times that the funding scandal is indicative of a systemic issue.

“Anti-racism in this government doesn’t seem to include anti-Semistism,” said Lantsman. “There is a trust issue now here.”

Lantsman said that she favours a full review of Heritage, the vetting process behind awarding grants, and the timeline of when Hussen was made aware of Marouf’s social media posts.

“There’s a culpability of the government trying to take what they think is quick, corrective action to sweep this under the rug while not addressing the actual problem,” said Lantsman. “I want to be clear. The government has not addressed this as a wider issue, [other] than to cut funding after more than a month after they’ve been caught.”

NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.), his party’s ethics critic and a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, told The Hill Times it would be strange for anyone to pin the blame for the funding scandal specifically onto Hussen, given the decision was made before Hussen assumed responsibility for the diversity portfolio that falls within the Department of Heritage. Hussen was sworn in as minister of housing and diversity on Oct. 26, 2021.

Green said it is the Liberal government’s responsibility to “take meaningful action beyond individual people.”

“What I’m looking for out of this government is not about individual actors within the government, but an actual commitment that they’re going to follow through on the outcomes around anti-racism,” said Green. “This goes well beyond Minister Hussen, who, in the right moments, has said the right things, and I think has supported the right initiatives.”

Green said he supports a review of Heritage Canada, and any government department that deals with “the procurement of outside organizations who may be engaged in harmful behaviours.”

“What we have found within the Liberal government [is] that they speak the language of equity, diversity and inclusion, but it’s often the case that they fail to have the corresponding outcomes in their actual governing, and that is certainly not constricted to Minister Hussen,” said Green. “I think it speaks to the culture of the seriousness of the issue. My hope is that [the Liberals] would hold a high standard of scrutiny and due diligence on funding for all agencies, in all departments, that are government funded … and learn from this situation, and move forward.”

Source: Diversity Minister Hussen will be judged based on result of review into CMAC funding, says Jewish advocacy group

Feds probe ‘disturbing’ tweets by consultant on government-funded anti-racism project

One of the things I learned when working under the Conservative government was to ensure we checked social media posts of those in leadership positions in groups applying for G&C funding. We learned this the hard way when political staffers would flag particularly egregious or overly ideological postings, thus removing the proposal from being considered.

And of course, this needs to be applied broadly and consistently across organizations and funding requests:

The federal diversity minister says he’s taking action over “disturbing” tweets by a senior consultant on an anti-racism project that received $133,000 from his department.

Ahmed Hussen has asked Canadian Heritage to “look closely at the situation” after what he called “unacceptable behaviour” by Laith Marouf, a senior consultant involved in the government-funded project to combat racism in broadcasting.

Marouf’s Twitter account is private but a screenshot posted online shows a number of tweets with his photo and name.

One tweet said: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of thier (sic) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”

Marouf declined requests for comment, but when asked about the tweet, a lawyer acting for Marouf asked for his client’s tweets to be quoted “verbatim” and distinguished between Marouf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists,’” and Jews or Jewish people in general.

Marouf does not harbour “any animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group,” lawyer Stephen Ellis said in an email.

Last year, the Community Media Advocacy Centre received a $133,800 Heritage Department grant to build an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting.

Marouf is listed as a senior consultant on CMAC’s website and is quoted saying that CMAC is “excited to launch” the “Building an Anti-Racism Strategy for Canadian Broadcasting: Conversation & Convergence Initiative” with funding support from Heritage’s anti-racism action program.

He expressed gratitude to “Canadian Heritage for their partnership and trust imposed on us,” saying that CMAC commits to “ensuring the successful and responsible execution of the project.”

Hussen, who is based in the Heritage Department, said in a statement: “We condemn this unacceptable behaviour by an individual working in an organization dedicated to fighting racism and discrimination.”

“Our position is clear — antisemitism and any form of hate have no place in Canada. That is why I have asked Canadian Heritage to look closely at the situation involving disturbing comments made by the individual in question. We will address this with the organization accordingly, as this clearly goes against our government’s values,” Hussen added.

CMAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister who was appointed as Canada’s special envoy on antisemitism by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Marouf’s tweet referring to “loud mouthed bags of human feces” was “beyond the pale.”

Cotler said he plans to speak to officials working in the Heritage department on combating racism about the issue.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Canadians “should be appalled” by his tweets.

“Canadian Heritage must review its oversight policies to ensure Canadian taxpayer dollars are provided to groups committed to cherished Canadian values and to combating racism, hate, and discrimination,” he said.

Source: Feds probe ‘disturbing’ tweets by consultant on government-funded anti-racism project

Police-reported hate-motivated crime rises sharply for second year in a row

Latest numbers by StatsCan, showing particularly high increase in 2021 of religiously motivated hate crimes, with biggest relative increase for Catholics, likely due to the discovery of unmarked graves. In terms of ethnicity motivated, the rise of anti East and SE Asian hate crimes during pandemic stands out:

The number of police-reported hate-motivated crimes in Canada increased by 27%, up from 2,646 incidents in 2020 to 3,360 in 2021. This follows a 36% increase in 2020. In total, the number of police-reported hate crimes rose 72% from 2019 to 2021. Higher numbers of hate-motivated crimes targeting religion (+67%; 884 incidents), sexual orientation (+64%; 423 incidents) and race or ethnicity (+6%; 1,723 incidents) accounted for the majority of the increase. All provinces and territories reported increases in the number of hate crimes in 2021, except for Yukon, where it remained the same.

Police data on hate crimes reflect only those incidents that come to the attention of police and that are subsequently classified as hate crimes. As a result, fluctuations in the number of reported incidents may be attributable to a true change in the volume of hate crimes, but they might also reflect changes in reporting by the public because of increased community outreach by police or heightened sensitivity after high-profile events. Reporting may also be influenced by language barriers, issues of trust or confidence in the police, or fear of further victimization or stigma.

Source: Police-reported hate-motivated crime rises sharply for second year in a row

Reactions:

The head of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is calling for action to combat hate and more federal help for victims, as new statistics show that hate crimes in Canada rose by 27 per cent last year. 

Executive director Mohammed Hashim warned that unless action is taken to combat hate-motivated abuse, including online, it will continue to spread.

He said the “slew of hate” online is so prevalent it risks becoming normalized and those affected are changing their behaviour to deal with it, including by not reading social media comments.

“It is a firehose of hate that is growing, honestly, like a wildfire,” he said. “And unmitigated it will grow even further to a point where we will normalize being in a wildfire.

“That is because we have left this environment unchecked.”

Statistics Canada reported a dramatic increase in hate crimes in 2021. Last year, the number of hate-motivated crimes reported to the police rose to 3,360 incidents from 2,646 in 2020. This followed a 36 per cent rise in 2020. 

In total, the number of hate-motivated crimes recorded by the police has gone up 72 per cent since 2019, according to the agency. 

Four Muslim Canadians from the same family were killed in June last year when a man rammed a truck into them in London, Ont. Police have said the attack was motivated by Islamophobia.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the figures are “further evidence of the alarming and unacceptable rise of hate that marginalized communities have experienced in recent years.”

Mendicino said the federal government is taking action on a variety of fronts, led by new legislation to tackle the rise of hate speech and hate crimes.

“We will not rest until all Canadians feel safe in their communities,” he added. 

A report by the race relations foundation, published Tuesday, calls for greater federal help for victims of hate, many of whom do not qualify for financial compensation because their abuse does not count as a crime.

Hashim warned that “not supporting victims and leaving hate to proliferate freely disintegrates Canadian multiculturalism as a whole and a sense of collective belonging to this nation.”

Hate-motivated crimes targeting a person’s religious affiliation were up 67 per cent last year, according to Statistics Canada. Crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation were up 64 per cent year over year. Another 1,723 recorded incidents targeted a person’s race or ethnicity, a six per cent increase, and together these categories made up the majority of the overall rise.

Marvin Rotrand of B’nai Brith Canada said Jews were the No. 1 target of hate crimes aimed at religious minorities. 

“All Canadians should be worried about the alarming explosion of hate crimes witnessed in 2021,” Rotrand said. “Our community comprises 1.25 per cent of the Canadian population but were the victims of 56 per cent of hate crimes aimed at religious minorities. That is more than all other religious groups combined.”

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said incidents targeting the Jewish community have risen by 47 per cent since 2020.

“Statistically, Canadian Jews were more than 10 times more likely than any other Canadian religious minority to report being the target of a hate crime,” he said.

All provinces and territories reported increases in the number of hate crimes in 2021, except for Yukon, where the numbers remained the same.

Hashim, who regularly tours the country speaking to victims of hate as well as community groups and police forces, said more focus must be put on victims. He said young women are facing huge amounts of abuse online, particularly young Black women. 

“Right now we talk a lot about hate crime statistics, how police are dealing with it or not dealing with it, being reported or not being reported,” he said. “What we are constantly missing is what is the effect on victims.”

The Department of Canadian Heritage is working on drafting an online hate bill to set up a framework to combat abuse online.

A previous anti-hate bill, introduced at the tail end of the last Parliament, died when the election was called. 

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appointed an expert panel to make suggestions for a future bill, including faster takedown obligations on platforms, in particular over child pornography.

During a consultation by the federal government last year, some minority groups raised concerns about directly involving the police to combat hate speech online.

Hashim warned against “digital carding” and a mass trawl of content online. He acknowledged there is concern about whether police should be able to access all takedown materials for investigative purposes.

“I don’t think that is the proper way of doing online safety. There need to be checks and balances between how much information is accessible to the police. That is why we have warrants,” he said.

“Just creating open access for all police, for all takedown data, for all social media platforms is overkill in my opinion.” 

The report commissioned by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and written by PricewaterhouseCoopers, said 80 per cent of hate crimes go unreported each year.

The report recommends Canada mirror Germany’s model for supporting victims of hate with millions of dollars of funding for community groups, which people who encounter hate “instinctively” reach out to, as well as a further victims fund. 

It says the government’s current compensation schemes exclude many victims of hate because few hate-motivated acts are designated as criminal.

The report also suggests the government establish an emergency response fund for communities hit by hate attacks on a large scale, as well as a central national support hub for victims.

Source: Race relations foundation urges more help for victims as hate crimes rise further

Ottawa is holding separate summits on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Should it have tackled them together?

Yes, they should have given some of the commonalities and the need for all Canadians, whatever their origins, religions or other characteristic have to work on reducing bias, discrimination and prejudice together.

Otherwise, more for show and signalling than the longer-term work required:

As two anti-hate summits grappling with a rising tide of hatred against Canada’s Jewish and Muslim communities get underway, could both groups forge a stronger path forward if they were to convene as one?

That’s a question being posed by Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who will be attending both events.

“These are two groups, two faith communities, that have travelled parallel roads but have rarely intersected. And they are two communities that face the same form of hateful, violent targeting,” Farber told the Star.

“Wouldn’t it have made maybe a little bit more sense, in my view, to have had a summit … that would focus on both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia instead of having two separate ones, which has a tendency to not bring us together but to keep us apart?”

On Wednesday, the federal government will host a virtual summit on anti-Semitism, bringing together municipal and provincial political leaders to hear how the Jewish community would like to see hate, discrimination and harassment stamped out on a national scale. Former justice minister Irwin Cotler, now Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism, will take part in the event.

Just one day later, the same task will befall members of Canada’s Muslim community, many of whom are still reeling from a targeted attack in June that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., as they were out for an evening walk. MPs unanimously voted in favour of a motion to hold a national summit on Islamophobia in the aftermath of the violent incident. 

But as political tensions over the conflict in the Middle East began to boil over earlier this year — leading to clashes and police intervention at several rallies between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the country — so did hateful acts targeting Jews and Muslims.

“Once you’ve targeted people here in Canada for something that may have happened in the Middle East … it is either Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” Farber said.

The tensions also trickled down to two leading Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada.

In May, the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) sent an email to members of the federal government laying out the groundwork for an emergency summit to combat “a shocking wave of anti-Semitism” in Canada.

In one paragraph of the email, which was viewed by the Star, the organization called on Ottawa to “engage directly — and privately” with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), to “challenge them to recalibrate their rhetoric and activities in a way that ensures the safety of the public square for all.”

NCCM, which released its list of priority policy recommendations on Monday ahead of Thursday’s summit, would not comment on the email.

The remarks referred to NCCM’s call to the federal government to “denounce in no uncertain terms Israel’s deliberate attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is part of a site revered in both Islam and Judaism. 

In a statement to the Star, CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogler said such language has been used to “foment anger” and violence against Jews in the past.

“We have communicated these concerns — in particular, the need for all civil society groups to engage with the issues in a constructive and respectful manner — directly to the NCCM as well as our government,” the statement read.

Farber, who has worked closely with Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada, told the Star he has worked “for years” to bring the groups together to jointly tackle hate.

“We can’t battle hatred from different outposts. There is strength in numbers. And I would say eventually, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually bring all these targeted groups together under one umbrella, to share ideas, to share strategies?”

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of NCCM, said he would be happy to “work towards a broader summit” in Canada for all groups facing an upswing in hate.

“The reality is, we are facing a unique time where it’s all on the rise,” he said. 

But first, Farooq is focused on harms plaguing his own community.

“We are committed to working with all communities to solve Islamophobia and all forms of hate, but we do need to address the specific problems facing the Muslim community,” he said.

In an interview with the Star last Friday, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger said it’s still clear there is “a lot more work to do” to eradicate hate in this country.

Chagger acknowledged that there is a “sense of urgency” in addressing these issues at the upcoming summits, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed even more inequities in Canadian society.

“It is important that the government listen and hear the ideas and suggestions and try to put them into actionable items,” she said. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2021/07/19/ottawa-is-holding-separate-summits-on-anti-semitism-and-islamophobia-should-it-have-tackled-them-together.html

Let’s make 2021 the year we eliminate online hate in Canada

Of note, along with contesting Isreal’s non-vaccination of Palestinians, which is a legitimate criticism of the Israeli government, not “a demonstrably false accusation tantamount to a modern-day blood libel.” One can also question the further codification of the IHRA definition, given its sometimes being used more broadly than intended. The other specific recommendations, however, are reasonable:

2020 was challenging. In addition to the horror of disease, the pandemic brought other troubling developments, including a sharp rise in hatred disseminated online. Canadians are clearly immune neither to the pandemic nor to the growing hate it appears to be exacerbating.  

Online hate is not a new phenomenon. At my organization, CIJA, we have been working on the issue since 2013. But, like the coronavirus, online hate has exploited weaknesses in our society to the detriment of all. As our lives continue to migrate online, the very platforms that proved to be a lifeline in so many ways also served as a springboard for spreading vicious hatred.  

Asian Canadians have been wrongfully and absurdly accused of deliberately unleashing COVID-19. 

Indigenous people, subjected to hatred and mistreatment since generations before the invention of the internet, many living in conditions that should embarrass all Canadians, are experiencing vicious online attacks on their culture and identity.    

Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ2+ community are regularly targeted by haters online, where Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia continue to flourish.   

Good old-fashioned racists seized the opportunity provided by a global discussion about anti-Black hatred to, paradoxically, spread anti-Black hatred.   

And, of course, Jews were accused of this conspiracy or that one, from creating COVID-19 to profiting from the pandemic to claiming that Israel has leveraged the pandemic to oppress Palestinians by denying them the vaccine – a demonstrably false accusation tantamount to a modern-day blood libel, and one that the Palestinians themselves have refuted.   

All deeply offensive, to be sure, but being offensive is the only causes for concern.  

If online hate were simply offensive, it would be easier to dismiss. However, CIJA and the many partners we have worked with over the years – including those who have recently joined us to form the Canadian Coalition to End Online Hate – have increasingly observed, online hate can, and too often does, turn into real-world violence.   

This. Must. Stop.   

The federal government should deliver on its commitments

Following the 2019 election, the Liberals committed to devising a national strategy to end online hate, an issue that was explicitly included in the Prime Minister’s mandate letters to the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Heritage and Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. 

They have a very good blueprint to work from: the June 2019 report on online hate produced by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, then chaired by Montreal-area MP Anthony Housefather. The report followed the murders in Christchurch, Pittsburgh, and Poway, all cases of online hate morphing into real world violence. 

It is now time to take the next steps. We, and the groups we work with through the Canadian Coalition to End Online Hate, a broad-based alliance of close to 40 (and growing) organizations representing a diverse array of communities, are calling for the following concrete actions.  

We propose:   

  • Increasing resources for law enforcement, Crown attorneys, and judges to ensure they receive sufficient training on how to apply existing laws to deal with online hate 
  • Directing Statistics Canada to address the gap in data to help us determine the scope of the problem and monitor progress  
  • Ensuring we achieve balance between combating online hate and protecting freedom of expression, notably by formulating a definition of “hate” and “hatred” that is consistent with Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence 
  • Creating a civil remedy to address online hate and  
  • Establishing strong and clear regulations for online platforms and Internet service providersabout how they monitor and transparently address incidents of hate spread on their platforms.   

The Role of Social Media Giants  

Platforms and providers do not have the best record when it comes to tracking and eliminating online hate. They must do better. And they will only do so with government pressure.  Canadian law must be strengthened to put the onus on platforms and providers to ensure that hateful content does not get published in their spaces. 

A national strategy to address online hate must include both the development of clear, harmonized, and uniform regulations, which apply to all platforms and providers operating in Canada, and an independent regulator to enforce them. 

These regulations should include a mandatory directive that providers incorporate appropriate definitions of hate and hatred. In the case of the Jewish community, we are advocating for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to be included in their user codes of conduct, algorithms, moderator policies, and terms of service.  

We also strongly believe that providers must make it easier for users to flag hateful content and be transparent about how complaints are adjudicated.  

COVID-19 has significantly accelerated our migration online, which was already well underway. It is imperative that we collectively do what is necessary to ensure the online space is a safe and hate-free place for everyone. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/01/11/lets-make-2021the-yearweeliminateonline-hatein-canada.html

Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

A reminder that it is not just Muslims that will be affected by Bill 62:

Interdire à certains fonctionnaires de porter la kippa ou d’exhiber une étoile de David représenterait une grave atteinte aux droits garantis par les chartes et serait contesté devant les tribunaux, préviennent d’importantes organisations juives.

B’nai Brith et le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CCJI) s’inquiètent du dépôt imminent par le gouvernement Legault du projet de loi sur la laïcité.

Selon La Presse et Radio-Canada, Québec va interdire le port de signes religieux aux fonctionnaires en position d’autorité, y compris les enseignants, les directions d’école et ceux qui portent une arme.

« Ce qu’on entend du projet de loi est contraire aux valeurs canadiennes et québécoises. La CAQ doit éviter la pente glissante qui consiste à réduire les droits fondamentaux », prévient Harvey Levine, directeur du bureau québécois de B’nai Brith.

Le débat public sur les signes religieux au travail s’est surtout centré sur le hidjab. Mais les organismes juifs canadiens rappellent que la kippa serait aussi visée, tout comme le turban sikh ou la croix chrétienne.

« Il s’agit selon nous d’une menace pour les libertés religieuses des juifs, des musulmans, des sikhs, et tous les autres groupes religieux visibles dans cette province », indique M. Levine.

La laïcité de l’État peut être atteinte sans que l’on s’attaque aux droits religieux, estime le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA).

« Bien qu’il existe un fort sentiment en faveur de la réaffirmation de la laïcité au Québec, notre communauté estime que la laïcité de l’État est un devoir institutionnel et non personnel. L’attachement à la laïcité ne repose pas sur l’apparence des individus », indique Reuben Poupko, coprésident du CIJA-Québec.

Pour le chef de l’opposition à l’hôtel de ville de Montréal, qui porte la kippa, l’idée d’interdire les signes religieux à certains fonctionnaires est basée sur une mauvaise prémisse : celle selon laquelle un employé de l’État qui porte un signe religieux ne peut être neutre.

« Il est difficile pour moi de croire qu’en 2019, on remette en question les motivations des gens selon leur manière de s’habiller, a récemment écrit Lionel Perez dans Montreal Gazette. Retirer les signes religieux n’éradique en rien les préjugés. »

Jusque devant l’ONU

Le B’nai Brith et le CIJA craignent que le projet de loi sur la laïcité n’enfreigne des droits garantis par les chartes. La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés protège certaines libertés fondamentales, parmi lesquelles les libertés de religion et d’expression.

Le premier ministre François Legault se dit prêt à utiliser la disposition de dérogation (communément appelée clause nonobstant) pour soustraire sa future loi aux tribunaux. Pour lui, il s’agit de « protéger notre identité ».

Selon l’avocat montréalais Julius Grey, la disposition de dérogation ne peut toutefois protéger le Québec et le Canada contre un camouflet devant le Comité des droits de l’homme de l’Organisation des Nations unies (ONU).

« Si le gouvernement espère éviter le débat judiciaire en invoquant la clause nonobstant, il doit se rappeler qu’il existe un forum international où ce genre de chose peut être débattu », souligne Me Grey.

« Il est téméraire de préjuger de ce qui sera dans le projet de loi, dit-il. Mais il me semble que la confrontation judiciaire est plus ou moins inévitable. »

Ce comité de l’ONU a par exemple épinglé la France à au moins deux reprises sur la question des signes religieux. Dans un cas, l’ONU a donné raison à une employée d’une garderie congédiée car elle portait le voile islamique. Les décisions de ce comité ne sont toutefois pas contraignantes.

« Bien sûr, la décision du Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations unies n’est pas contraignante comme le jugement d’une cour québécoise ou de la Cour suprême », explique Julius Grey.

« Mais je vois mal comment le Québec, malgré un jugement de cette nature, justifierait de maintenir sa position. »

Source: Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

ICYMI: Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

Good question:

The province’s Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD) has produced a clear and concise strategy to combat anti-Black racism. So why have they fumbled things so badly with their sub-committee on anti-Semitism?

Anti-racism is about giving voice to those who are outside the mainstream and ensuring broad representation in all public matters.

The ARD’s Strategic Plan, A Better Way Forward, states that its approach “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it [and] involves consistently assessing structures, policies and programs.”

Yet, the directorate has set up a sub-committee on anti-Semitism that consists solely of representatives from the Jewish establishment, including from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith Canada, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC).

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) have requested to be included on the committee.

“Underlying our desire to participate is deep concern, shared by a growing number of Jews, that accusations of anti-Semitism are being used to suppress criticism of Israel,” says Rachel Epstein, executive director of UJPO’s Winchevsky Centre.

In a submission to the directorate last year, IJV campaigns coordinator Tyler Levitan expressed concern that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, also known as BDS, might also form part of the sub-committee’s mandate.

Sadly, limiting the committee membership to mainstream voices reinforces the systemic biases that the directorate has been set up to combat.

A broader, more balanced committee is essential, including representatives from non-establishment Jewish groups.

CIJA, B’Nai Brith and FSWC don’t measure up.

While they have decried Islamophobia, the groups have opposed M-103, a parliamentary motion passed last year condemning Islamophobia and all other forms of religious discrimination.

Bernie Farber, a former executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (who is a member of the sub-committee) criticized the groups in a column last February in the Canadian Jewish News.

“How can it be,” he wrote, “that fellow Jews … deny the very same protections they would rightly demand for themselves?”

One would expect the sub-committee would include those with a dedication to anti-racism generally.

But while the organizations represented on the sub-committee claim many criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic, they have historically failed to take issue with blatant racism expressed by senior Israeli politicians and government officials.

Recently, that has included the Communications Minister calling African refugees a “sanitary nuisance” and the Justice Minister calling Palestinian children “little snakes.”

The Anti-Racism Directorate’s credibility will be seriously damaged unless it deals with the narrow membership on the sub-committee.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the provincial Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, need to act to preserve the directorate’s reputation as it carries out its important task of combatting racism in all its forms.

via Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Questionable decision but appears that investigation ongoing (B’nai Brith appears to have been overly political in their initial reaction compared to CIJA):

The University of Lethbridge has reinstated a professor who had been suspended more than one year ago for questioning the Holocaust and suggesting there was a Zionist connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Anthony Hall, a tenured professor in the university’s globalization studies program, was reinstated following a hearing before a labour arbitrator.

Published reports stated that the university’s board of governors and the faculty association issued a joint statement saying that issues concerning Hall’s activities will be addressed in a faculty handbook.

Contacted by The CJN, the faculty association stated that, “It’s a personnel matter and its confidential.”

Hall was originally suspended in October 2016 over his Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories. At the time, the university issued a statement saying, “From the findings of that assessment, the board has decided to proceed with a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Dr. Hall for publishing statements, alone and in collaboration with others, that could be considered hateful, contemptuous and discriminatory.”

The faculty association contested the suspension and, following a court decision in September, an arbitrator was appointed and a hearing was held earlier this month.

B’nai Brith Canada slammed Hall’s reinstatement and blamed the government of Alberta for passing legislation that brought faculty under the province’s labour-relations laws.

“Premier (Rachel) Notley and her government bear direct responsibility for placing a discredited conspiracy theorist back in a university classroom,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “We repeatedly warned the government of the likely outcome of its actions, but they sadly chose to ignore our warnings and expose Alberta university students to anti-Semitism and discrimination instead.

“Despite this setback, we expect the University of Lethbridge to continue fighting anti-Semitism on campus, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that Hall has no podium for his unhinged anti-Semitic nonsense.”

In an email cited in a news release by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Premier Notley stated, “There is no question that the views of this individual are repulsive, offensive and not reflective of Alberta. Our classrooms are a place for freedom of speech and expression but that does not mean individuals get to stand at the head of the class and spread lies and conspiracy theories. I am terribly disappointed to learn that this individual has been reinstated, but let me be clear that legislation that our government introduced did not give him his job back. I can confirm that this individual is now under investigation by a committee at the university.”

For its part, CIJA stated that Hall’s reinstatement was “a direct result of an agreement between Hall, the faculty association and the university. We have also confirmed that Hall will not be teaching or interacting with students. He is continuing to be investigated by the university and his future is far from certain.”

via Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Senate Hearings on C-6: Witnesses February 15-16

The Senate’ Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) committee started hearings this week on Bill C-6 repeal and other changes to the previous government’s C-24 legislation that made citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose”

Witnesses reflected a balance of views on the proposed changes with few surprises compared to the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee hearings last year, or for that matter, much of the discussion around C-24 in 2014.

The changed composition of the Senate compared to the 2014 C-24 review (more non-affiliated senators, Trudeau appointments) was reflected in the selection of witnesses and questions.

As expected, discussion focussed on the main elements of C-6:

Revocation (terror or treason): Witnesses from the CBA, Quebec Bar, Audrey Macklin, and Craig Forcese all supported repeal of this provision, Reis Paghtakan opposed its repeal but only for terrorist convictions in Canada, and CIJA and Julie Taub opposed its repeal in all cases. Questioning by Senators included the legal and constitutional aspects of revocation, whether or not this acted as a deterrent, and the possible impact this could have with respect to war crimes.   There was a useful discussion on the difference between revocation for misrepresentation and for crimes of terror or treason; the former pertaining to crimes committed before being granted citizenship, where misrepresentation was the issue, and crimes committed after being granted citizenship, where the issue was whether the criminal system was sufficient to handle such cases or a supplementary punishment through revocation was warranted. Needless to say, the issue of differential treatment for dual nationals and Charter rights was raised repeatedly. Forcese and Macklin noted the negative impact such differential treatment had with respect to integration and countering violent extremism.

Revocation (misrepresentation): While not part of C-6, the absence of procedural protections – paper process, no right to a hearing, no right to an appeal – was raised repeatedly with virtually all witnesses indicating this remained an issue. Most favoured a return to the previous system of appeals to the Federal Court. Taub, however, emphasized how easy it was to commit residency fraud and misrepresentation, the need for smart Permanent Resident cards to track entry and exit, but did not comment on the need or not for protections. CIJA acknowledged the need for some procedural protections but wanted to ensure that these did result in endless appeals as happened in the Oberlander case.

Language and knowledge assessment: All agreed language was important to integration. No witnesses disagreed with the proposed removal of language and knowledge testing for 14-17 year olds. Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC) noted time, money and educational challenges for their low-income and refugee clientele, the need for expanded language training and related supports such as child care and income support and greater flexibility to waive requirements on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The cost of language assessment was also mentioned. CBA noted that writing the knowledge test in english or french imposed a double requirement and they would have been happy with keeping the testing requirement for 55-64 year olds but with the flexibility to do the test with an interpreter.

The most interesting recommendation was from Paghtakan, where he continues to advocate for scrapping language assessment as is a pre-requisite for economic class immigrants for permanent residency status. Duplication meant more expense to the government and more costs to immigrants. Most family class immigrants are parents and grandparents who would thus be exempt given the proposed change in age requirements while refugees could wait until they attain 55.

Chair noted earlier work by committee that showed 55-64 year olds formed about one-third of the active workforce.

Residency: Taub questioned the change in residency from four out of six years to three out of five, arguing that it was more generous than other countries and that this and other measures would increase the number of citizens of convenience. Paghtakan, while he had supported the four of six requirement of C-24, had no issue with the change to three of five given the maintenance of physical presence. The strength of Taub’s intervention on residency-related questions prompted Senator Petitclerc why all Taub’s points were so negative without mentioning the positive benefits of citizens contributing abroad. Taub cited citizens who install their family and return to the Gulf or Hong Kong where they can make more money and not pay Canadian income tax.

Intent to reside: Only Taub supported maintaining the intent to reside provision given its symbolic importance. The other lawyers testifying noted that situations can change following applying for citizenship and the consequent risk of misrepresentation cases and thus supported its repeal.

Pre-Permanent Residency time partial credit: Again, only Taub opposed restoring this pre-C-24 provision for Temporary Foreign Workers and international students, stating that this facilitated citizens of convenience.

Other issues

Oath: Paghtakan endorsed the TRC recommendation to amend the citizenship oath by adding the words “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” to assist new Canadians appreciate and understand this aspect of Canadian history and society.

Parental passing citizenship to children with no genetic link (in vitro): Quebec Bar raised gap in current legislation which based parental status on the genetic link (save for adoptions) rather than the relationship as in case of in vitro children.

Religious accommodation language testing: CIJA noted that many language testing centres only provided this service on Saturday (Sabbath), with extensive delays in accommodation.

Smart permanent resident card (chip or magnetic strip): Taub argued strongly that the PR card should be a smart card like any gym card that would allow tracking of entry and exit and make it easier for applicants to prove they met the residency requirements without having to search through documentation. (Comment: sounds good in theory but not a simple change, compounded by government challenges in managing complex IT projects as seen with Phoenix and Shared Services Canada.)

Fees: MTCSALC noted that the increase in citizenship processing fees from $100 to $530 made it prohibitive for many low income and refugee immigrants. The recent CBC article on the impact of citizenship fees on the number of applications was cited by Senator Eggleton. Taub argued that reduction was not just related to the increase of fees, that other factors — change in residency requirements, language testing — were also factors. She supported full cost recovery but with subsidies for low-income applicants.

Jewish group CIJA says Trudeau made ‘unfortunate’ comparison in speech

CIJA’s defence of the Government’s rather mixed messaging on Canadian Muslims rather than acknowledging some of the uncomfortable if imperfect parallels made in Trudeau’s speech:

In a written statement, Fogel said that Trudeau was raising a concern about a “growing atmosphere of Islamaphobia in Canada and around the world, the unfair result of violent, extreme acts of terrorism committed by a minority within the Muslim community.

“We share the belief that as Canadians, we must be vigilant and not allow prejudice and racism to take root in our society. It represents an important message, one all Canadians should heed.”

However, Fogel writes that Trudeau made an “unfortunate” comparison to the “none is too many” policy that has distracted from his “important message.”

“We view this comparison as inaccurate and inappropriate, and we will communicate that sentiment to Mr. Trudeau’s office.

“Canada’s decision to restrict Jewish immigration prior to the Holocaust was the product of an era in which Jews faced extensive social and institutional discrimination in Canada,” writes Fogel.

“Jewish Canadians were subject to quotas restricting admission to university programs, as well as outright bans from numerous social clubs and corporations. Signs in public parks went so far as to declare: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’”

By comparison, Fogel said that discrimination today is “rightly countered – rather than fostered – by the vast majority of Canadians.”

“This includes discrimination experienced by Muslims who, like all minority groups, unfortunately face a degree of prejudice from some elements of Canadian society. When it comes to racism and bigotry in Canada, there is little to compare between 1939 and 2015.”

Fogel writes that the federal government has consistently distinguished between “marginal, extreme, terrorist elements of the Muslim community and the broader Muslim community.”

Jewish group says Trudeau made ‘unfortunate’ comparison in speech.