Joseph Brean,Â National PostÂ
Ottawa may halt grants to anti-Semitic groups/Harper government launches review
Glenn Lowson for National Post
TORONTO — As part of a “zero tolerance approach towards anti-Semitism,” the federal government is reviewing all its public service grants to remove state support from groups that advocate hatred or express support for terrorism.
“We are just at the beginning of the process of trying to formalize and operationalize that principle. In my department, we will be engaged in a cross-government process,” Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, told an audience on Wednesday at the University of Toronto, co-hosted by the campus Hillel and Conservative Party clubs.
He said Ottawa is looking to Britain as an example, citing the “really robust” community outreach programs that were developed in the Home Office after the London Underground bombings of 2005.
“Unfortunately, the federal government is a huge, complicated machine,” he said.
You know, it’s over $200-billion budget, hundreds of thousands of people, and sometimes not everyone gets the message,” Mr. Kenney said. “I think there is a tendency to be a little bit naive in Canada. We’re so self-congratulatory about the success of our model of pluralism and diversity that surely no one could really mean ill in Canada. … We don’t necessarily all subscribe to Canadian values, and we should be willing to recognize those that don’t.”
He gave the example of discovering last year that the Canadian Islamic Congress had been providing sensitivity training sessions to the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority.
“No comment,” he said. “They’re no longer doing that.”
Referring particularly to the CIC and the Canadian Arab Federation, he described the targets of the funding review as groups with “no real constituency. They have an e-mail account. They have a fax machine. And they have a blowhard who’s willing to get on television and say the most audacious things that attract media attention. We, as a government, should not give them additional credibility.”
The review announcement is the latest twist in a bitter war of words between Mr. Kenney and Khaled Mouammar, the president of the Canadian Arab Federation. A detailed chronology posted on the CAF Web site shows the mutual animosity dates at least to Mr. Kenney’s appointment to his Cabinet post in January, 2007. It burst into public last month when Mr. Mouammar called Mr. Kenney a “professional whore” for his denunciation of Hamas and Hezbollah flags at a Toronto protest against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Mr. Kenney this month stripped the CAF of a $447,000 grant to provide language training to new immigrants, marking the first funding casualty of the government’s new hate audit.
That led Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis to file a complaint of “undue influence” with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, but Mr. Kenney denied that the two events were linked.
“If that misunderstanding exists, I absolutely regret it,” he said in an interview. “I didn’t create the misunderstanding. It was an initial media report in the Sun newspaper chain that tied the two things together when they were never tied together in my mind. And so, yeah, I regret that, because to some extent I think it has diverted attention away from the real issue, which has nothing to do with name calling whatsoever. Thank God we don’t live in a country where people with political authority can be vindictive in that way. I think that would be really ridiculous.”
He quipped yesterday that the insult was a redundancy – whores are professional by definition – and that alone should disqualify Mr. Mouammar from running any language program.
A call to the CAF yesterday was not returned.
Mr. Kenney focused his speech on the question of anti-Semitism on university campuses, and the “reckless language” of “delegitimization” of Israel. He called it “both a cause and a consequence of the new anti-Semitism,” which hides behind a pose of multiculturalism.
He cited two famous cases: the 2004 statement by former Canadian Islamic Congress leader and University of Waterloo engineering professor Mohamed Elmasry that “anybody [in Israel] above 18 is a part of the Israeli popular army” and thus a valid target, and the 2007 attendance of St. Francis Xavier politics professor Shiraz Dossa at an Iranian Holocaust denial conference.
He said these cases demonstrate “the disturbing comfort of a small minority in Canadian academia with this odious new anti-Semitism,” which is “packaged up as anti-Zionism.”
Also on Wednesday, the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario publicized leaked recordings that, it says, show Conservative representatives “advising Conservative students to set up ‘front organizations’ to receive student clubs funding under false pretenses in order to funnel money to the Conservative Party.”
The CFS-Ontario, a union of student governments, accused the party of “a plan to undermine democratic decision-making on Canadian campuses” by preventing the University of Waterloo from joining the CFS-Ontario.
Although Mr. Kenney was heckled on the way to his car, and stopped in the hallway by an Iraq war resister who was carrying a baby while pleading her immigration case, his audience was largely supportive.
An exception came when Mr. Kenney slapped down a question from a student about the recent spate of prepared statements in the House of Commons by Conservative backbenchers criticizing Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella, in part for his campaign against right-wing blogger Kathy Shaidle, whom he accuses of racism.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sorry. I take it you’re from the Liberal club, you’ve got Warren Kinsella’s talking points. Good for you. Send me a memo, I’ll look into it,” he said.
“He guessed right,” said the questioner, Gabe De Roche, recruiting manager for the campus Liberal club.