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German politician Christine Anderson, second from right, poses with Conservative MPs, from left Colin Carrie, Leslyn Lewis and Dean Allison.Handout

Three Conservative MPs are playing down their photo with a member of a far-right German party that has espoused anti-immigrant rhetoric, saying they did not know about her politics when they met her during her visit to Canada this week.

Jewish groups criticized the meeting, as photos of the encounter, shared on social media, showed the MPs smiling as they stood alongside Christine Anderson, who represents the Alternative for Germany – also known as the AfD – party in the European Parliament. The photo shows the MPs in a restaurant setting.

Posing from the federal Conservative caucus were Haldimand-Norfolk MP Leslyn Lewis, a two-time contender for the leadership of the Tories, Colin Carrie, who represents Oshawa, and Niagara West MP Dean Allison.

“As we have stressed in response to previous incidents of this nature, it is imperative that members of Parliament do their due diligence when agreeing to formal meetings,” Nicole Amiel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a statement issued on Friday.

The previous night, the centre said in a tweet that it was “deeply concerned” about the meeting with Ms. Anderson, whom they described as a member of a party “known for Islamophobic and anti-immigrant views.”

But the Conservatives said they did not know the party’s stands.

“We were not aware of the views and associations of her and her political party,” said a statement issued by Sebastian Skamski, the director of media relations for the Official Opposition Leader’s office, on behalf of all the MPs, on Thursday night.

“We do not share or endorse her views, and strongly condemn any views that are racist or hateful.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized the Conservative Party Friday for its response to the MPs’ meeting, and said it continues a pattern of the party feigning ignorance when called out for its actions. He referenced two past incidents, including when official YouTube videos of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre were found to include a hidden misogynistic tag.

“Their answer is all the same: ‘Oh, we didn’t know,’ ” the Prime Minister said, speaking at a news conference in Toronto. “Canadians need to stop being treated like fools.”

Mr. Trudeau said Conservatives should either truly dissociate themselves from “hateful, vile, intolerant rhetoric” or, he added, they must explain that they indeed have room for intolerance within their party.

On Friday, Mr. Poilievre said he knew about Ms. Anderson’s views, describing them in a statement released by Mr. Skamski as “vile,” with no place in Canadian politics.

“Frankly, it would be better if Anderson never visited Canada in the first place. She and her racist, hateful views are not welcome here.”

Ms. Lewis, who has previously worked as a lawyer, said in a statement that she has been a staunch defender of human rights. “I am proud to have defended the rights of immigrants, including refugees from LGBTQ+ community, who faced significant persecution and have fled to Canada from all over the world,” she said.

As an MP, she said she is required to meet foreign officials frequently and often does not share the views of those officials or their parties.

Mr. Carrie, in a tweet posted late Friday afternoon, said he profoundly regretted attending the meeting without input from his staff or vetting the people he was meeting, “which is my usual practice.” He wrote that he alone owned the mistake. “I will do better.”

The AfD was founded in 2013, and has since gained traction in German politics with a message that has, at times, trivialized the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust, espoused anti-immigrant rhetoric denouncing former chancellor Angela Merkel for welcoming more than a million refugees, mostly from Syria, and supported Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Last March, a German court dismissed a legal challenge by the party that had paused a move by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, to launch a surveillance effort of the party.

And in January, Jorg Meuthen, the co-leader of the party, quit and left the organization, saying it had become too extreme “and the heart of the party beats very far to the right.” AfD is the fifth-largest party in the federal parliament of Germany.

Ms. Anderson has, falsely, claimed COVID-19 vaccines are “experimental,” and, as of March, 2022, refused to be tested for COVID-19.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the European Parliament in Brussels last March, Ms. Anderson described him as a “disgrace for any democracy,” and accused him of civil-rights violations in the context of the convoy protests.

Dan Panneton, the director of allyship and community engagement, for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said Friday Ms. Anderson is a member of a “radical right-wing party with xenophobic, Islamophobic and extremely nationalistic positions.”

In a statement, he said it was “incomprehensible” that the MPs were not aware of her or her party’s views, given these views have been widely documented online.

“Our political leaders need to be held to a higher standard, and if these MPs were not initially aware of the AfD’s hateful stance, they should have been made aware through proper vetting.”

NDP House Leader Peter Julian said it was “completely unacceptable” that the meeting happened. ”It gives a voice and approval to those who would spread anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” he said in a statement in Friday.

With a report from Marsha McLeod