An American political activist who publicly supports a U.S. religious leader known for his homophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric is among the keynote speakers at the New Democrats' biennial convention this weekend in Ottawa.
Tamika Mallory, one of the organizers of last year's Women's March on Washington that took place immediately after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, will address NDP delegates late Friday afternoon.
Ms. Mallory, a campaigner for social justice, health care and gun-control legislation, is also a vocal supporter of Louis Farrakhan, who blames Jews for the slave trade and black oppression. He also perpetuates a conspiracy theory that says a small handful of Jewish people control the United States, and has lamented Christian "blindness to that wicked state of Israel."
Mr. Farrakhan has also taken U.S. politicians to task for supporting gay marriage, which he says "is a sin according to the standard of God."
Ms. Mallory used her Twitter account on May 11 of last year to wish Mr. Farrakhan a happy birthday saying, "Thank God this man is still alive and doing well. He is definitely the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time]." She has also repeatedly endorsed him over the past two years on the social-media site Instagram. Efforts by The Globe and Mail to contact Ms. Mallory were unsuccessful.
The presence of Ms. Mallory at the convention is a concern for some Jewish groups, who also take issue with the fact that 14 of the 45 resolutions on international affairs that have been submitted by NDP riding associations are either pro-Palestinian or critical of Israel.
Melissa Bruno, the party's interim national director, said Ms. Mallory was invited to speak at the convention because "she is one of the architects of a progressive movement that has mobilized millions of people and that has made women's voices heard, not only in the U.S., but worldwide."
Ms. Bruno said she is "grateful" that Ms. Mallory will tell New Democrats "about the efforts that went into making the historic march on Washington a success, what it's like to organize in Trump's America, and her lived experiences as an activist and organizer."
But Ms. Bruno did not directly address whether some New Democrats may have qualms about putting a vocal supporter of Mr. Farrakhan on their stage. New Democrats have traditionally been leaders in the fight for homosexual and transgender rights.
As for the one-sided nature of the resolutions pertaining to the conflict in the Middle East, Ms. Bruno said: "We welcome healthy debate of ideas. Ideas are what the NDP is about and debate is what convention is for."
Richard Marceau, the general counsel and senior political adviser for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said it is troubling that the NDP has invited Ms. Mallory to its meeting.
"While there is a vocal and active minority of NDPers who have some kind of unhealthy anti-Israel obsession, I know the NDP does not share Louis Farrakhan's homophobic, anti-LGBTQ, and virulent antisemitic views," Mr. Marceau said.
"We are deeply concerned," he said, "that such a prestigious and prominent podium is given to a woman who proclaims her support, if not her admiration, for such a vile and bigoted character.
Simon Rosenblum, a New Democrat who is one of the founders of Canadian Friends of Peace Now, a Zionist group that promotes a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, said it is unacceptable that a supporter of Mr. Farrakhan would be a speaker at an NDP convention.
The fact that there are so many resolutions calling on support for the Palestinians and denunciation of Israel is also "very concerning," said Mr. Rosenblum who, in the 1980s, wrote the first NDP resolution calling for a negotiated two-state solution. "It makes me feel extremely uncomfortable."
Past party leaders, including Tom Mulcair, managed to suppress overtly anti-Israel rhetoric from NDP politicians and candidates. The party's current policy calls for Canada to work in peace with partners in Israel and the Palestinian territories to create independent states, along with the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and of violence targeting civilians.