Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged support for the Jewish community in the face of rising hate-motivated crimes at his government’s national antisemitism summit – but other federal party leaders expressed frustration at not being invited to speak at the event.
Hosted online by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Wednesday’s summit brought together government ministers and Jewish leaders to discuss ways to combat antisemitism. The event was created as part of the government’s Anti-Racism Strategy, and will be followed by a National Summit on Islamophobia on Thursday.
However, leaders of the other federal parties said they weren’t invited to participate in the event organized by the Liberal government, and were only sent links at the last minute to view the proceedings. Shadow ministers for the Conservative Party and the NDP did attend the summit.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul told media she felt it was a loss to the conversation that she wasn’t able to share her experiences as the only Jewish federal party leader.
“It’s a very sad state of affairs if we can’t come together in a non-partisan way to talk about antisemitism,” Ms. Paul said after a virtual event Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, Ms. Paul wrote on Twitter that she had not been invited to the summit. In the early afternoon on Wednesday, she tweeted that she had since been sent a link to watch the summit, but was not invited to speak. She then shared a video statement encouraging people to “speak out” and end the silence around hate.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was also not invited to participate in the event, a spokesperson confirmed. “Mr. O’Toole received an invitation at 7:15pm [Tuesday] evening to watch the summit but despite repeated requests from stakeholders and our office, we are not part of the event,” said Josie Sabatino in an e-mailed statement.
Mr. O’Toole shared a video statement Wednesday afternoon on Twitter, saying that his party stands with Israel and condemning what he called “polite” forms of antisemitism.
The Independent Jewish Voices Canada, an organization that describes itself as opposing all forms of racism and advocating for “justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine,” released a statement expressing outrage after the organization was also not invited to be included in the summit.
“The federal government’s decision to hand-pick which Jews it wants to hear from shows that it is not serious about fighting antisemitism, but is mainly interested in putting on a performance for electors prior to a widely rumoured fall election,” said IJV national co-ordinator Corey Balsam.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet’s office did not respond to a request for comment, nor did the office of the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion Bardish Chagger, who hosted the event.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also did not attend the summit. He said at a separate event Wednesday morning that he feels the government has not taken the necessary steps to combat online hate.
“There are a number of solutions that we have known about for years. And sadly, Mr. Trudeau has not taken action,” he said, referencing the deadly 2017 attack on a mosque in Quebec City. “We knew that attacker was radicalized by online hate years ago. And yet, nothing was done to tackle online hate.”
The government did introduce Bill C-36 at the end of June, which would better define online hate speech. An election may be called before the bill can pass though.
At the virtual summit, Mr. Trudeau said that his government will always support the Jewish community, and called the rise in hate-motivated crimes both “alarming” and “unacceptable.”
He also referenced how the past few months have been difficult as a result of the “distress and tension caused by the conflict in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.” Mr. Trudeau then reaffirmed that Canada supports Israel’s right to live in peace and to defend itself.
“We condemn the indiscriminate barrage of rocket attacks fired by Hamas into populated areas of Israel, putting civilians and children at risk,” he said. “We remain committed to supporting progress towards a two-state solution, and continue to oppose unilateral actions that jeopardize the prospects for peace.”
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