MP Levitt Quits Politics to Take Over FSWC

Aug. 5, 2020 –

Toronto-area Liberal Member of Parliament Michael Levitt has announced he is retiring from politics to become president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

Levitt has represented the riding of York Centre since 2015, when he defeated Conservative Mark Adler. He was re-elected in last year’s federal vote. His final day as an MP will be Sept. 1.

In a message to his constituents posted on Facebook, Levitt said the job of MP in Ottawa took a toll on his personal life.

“It hasn’t been without consequence to those I love most, and while it is an incredible privilege to serve the people of York Centre, I know deep down that now is the time for me to put family first and come back home, both physically and mentally,” he said.

Despite that, he said he “loved every minute” of political life. “…it has been the adventure of a lifetime.”

Among a handful of Jewish MPs, Levitt chaired the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group; the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development; and the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights.

He will replace Avi Benlolo as head of the FSWC. No reason was given for Benlolo’s departure from the organization earlier this summer.

“FSWC is excited to welcome Michael Levitt as President and CEO,” the group’s chair, Fred Waks, said in a press release. “As the Member of Parliament for York Centre, Michael is deeply rooted in the community and his work in the fields of foreign affairs and human rights has garnered him respect from advocates at home and abroad. His distinguished career advocating for human rights, and his support for Israel and the fight against antisemitism, bring a high level of leadership and profile to our organization. We could not be more excited for the future.”

As an MP, Levitt frequently spoke out on Israel and issues of concern to Canada’s Jews, co-sponsoring a 2018 bill to make May of each year Canadian Jewish Heritage Month.

He was visible when Canada said it would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, and he often addressed anti-Jewish incidents in the country.

But Levitt found himself on the defensive last autumn when Ottawa abruptly changed its vote on a resolution at the United Nations to oppose Israel, which filed a diplomatic complaint against Canada.

Levitt was also a member of the Raoul Wallenberg Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights. Before entering politics, he helped found the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.

In the FSWC statement, Levitt said he plans “to continue the organization’s proud legacy and the work I’ve done over the past five years in fighting antisemitism and promoting human rights, including bringing a renewed focus to the issue of systemic racism in Canada and how we can work together to address it.”

His appointment earned praise from former justice minister and international human rights advocate Irwin Cotler, who said Levitt’s “extensive experience and expertise dovetail perfectly with the mission and purpose of [FSWC], acting on the universal lessons of the Holocaust – combating racism and antisemitism and safeguarding Israel and the Jewish people.”

According to iPolitics, Levitt’s departure will trigger the first byelection of the current Parliament and will be the first during the COVID pandemic.

– CJR Staff

You Can Respond to Hate with Hate or Convert it to a Teaching Moment. We Chose the Latter.

Green Party Leadership Candidate Annamie Paul, and her sons, speak on the racism and antisemitism they face

July 27, 2020 – By ANNAMIE PAUL

One of the most significant moments of my life was the day I converted to Judaism. I spent my childhood growing up with Jewish friends, and my mother had always encouraged her children to find their own spiritual path. When my partner, who is Jewish, and I met in law school and decided to get married, I knew that I wanted to live a Jewish life and to raise a Jewish family. I converted over 20 years ago while studying for my Masters at Princeton University. The late Rabbi Jim Diamond – may his memory be a blessing – director of the campus Hillel and a fellow Canadian, supervised my conversion.

As a Black woman, I realized that converting would expose me to further discrimination. The history of my partner’s family – survivors of the Shoah – is a daily reminder of this fact. Nevertheless, the universal humanistic values of Judaism spoke to me and I was ready to take this step.

It has been a joy raising two Jewish sons and watching them celebrate their bar mitzvahs. My husband and I have told them of the solidarity between Black and Jewish communities during the civil rights movement and the allyship based on a common experience of persecution. It is never easy to sit your children down to explain why they will be targets of hate simply for being who they are. Nevertheless, it was our duty prepare them and to never let it weaken their pride.

Black and Jewish peoples need to decide early: Will racism and antisemitism embitter us, or will we work for positive change? I have encouraged my sons to opt for positive change and to model that to them in daily life. We are willing to educate any person who is open, even slightly, to understanding. However, where the heart and mind are closed, I want my kids to refuse to stay silent and to actively resist.

Last week, these principles were put to the test. As a candidate for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada, I was participating in a virtual regional debate. Not long into introductions, the word “N*IGGER” popped up, as did the phrase “f*cking jew.” I cannot know for certain whether these were intended for me – another candidate was named in the Jewish comment – but as I am the only Jew and the only Black candidate in the race, I naturally felt targeted. In any case, it was an unexpected shock. The perpetrators were removed, a reminder of the Green Party Code of Conduct was given, and the debate proceeded.

While this was the first occurrence in an online event, I have been subjected to months of antisemitic attacks. The moment it became known that I was Jewish, I was bombarded with questions about my positions on Israel, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and the proposed annexation of West Bank territories. Despite having posted public statements on these matters, questions persist. My loyalty to Canada has also been called into question, and I have been accused of taking bribes from Israel, leading a Zionist take-over of the Green Party of Canada and of spreading hasbarah.

My children were watching the debate when the hate speech happened. You are never fully prepared to receive to see such worry in your sons’ eyes. As a family, we faced a choice: Respond to hate with hate, or convert it to a teaching moment. We chose the latter.

My sons helped me craft a tweet that we hoped would draw attention to the hateful incident and provoke a public discussion about racism and antisemitism. The post has been viewed more than 164,000 times and there has been an outpouring of solidarity.

There are clearly many people unwilling to allow hate to go unchallenged. These voices, when combined, can help to change minds and to drown out racism and antisemitism. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) is working to identify the perpetrators and has made it clear that if members were involved, they will be expelled. There is no place for such people in our party. The GPC will need to go further and actively root out discriminatory views, as well as monitor social media more proactively.

Winning the leadership of the Green Party of Canada would send a powerful message to those seeking to spread hate that their time is up. As the first Jewish woman to lead a national party, I would be a strong voice for education on antisemitism where possible, and resistance when necessary – values that I have passed onto my sons, whose voices follow.

Jonas Daniel, age 16:

Last week was the first time I had seen the words “f*cking jew.” The comment named another candidate, but it hit home. Every day, I see my Mom fight for a better future for me and all people in Canada. Whether or not you agree with her politics, you must respect her passion to fight for what she believes is right.

Were she to win, she would be the first Black person and first Jewish woman to lead a major federal party in Canada. That’s important to note, too, because it seems like the more my mother leads, the more resentful people become of her identities. 


Malachai Daniel, age 20:

I grew up embracing the Jewish values of generosity, kindness, and respect for others. I have always felt grateful to have been born into a community that has done so much for the betterment of our world. Since day one, I was taught to carry my Jewish identity not as a burden but as a gift.

Despite my upbringing, no amount of preparation readies you for the scale of the antisemitism we have experienced since my mother entered politics. Daily dog whistles and claims of dual loyalty are taxing our wellbeing. Somehow, being Jewish trumps all my mother is doing to help others and gives some people free rein to question her loyalties based on her religion.

I do my best to shield her, as she did for me growing up, but keeping the antisemitism at bay has proved impossible. This has been an awakening for me. There is so much work to be done, and it is why I wholeheartedly believe we need to break the silence.


Annamie Paul is a leadership candidate for the Green Party of Canada. 

Bob Rae: The UN is a Complex Place in a Complex World

July 16, 2020 – By DANIEL HOROWITZ

When former Ontario Premier Bob Rae was asked to become Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations earlier this month, he found it an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“It’s a very uncertain time in the life of the world and I was very honoured to have been asked. I am delighted to be taking on this challenge,” Rae, who served as Ontario’s NDP premier from 1990 to 1995, told the CJR in an interview.

Bob Rae
Bob Rae

“I couldn’t refuse the job because of the significance of the times we are living in, and the significance of COVID and the impact it is having,” said Rae who served as interim federal Liberal Party leader from 2011 to 2013 and starts his new job on Aug. 4. “That is something that requires a different approach, which I’m glad to be able to advocate on behalf of our government.”

The biggest challenge before him, he said, is the COVID crisis.

“How do we recover globally from COVID and how do we work together to ensure universal access to a vaccine?” asked Rae. “And how do we ensure that the worst financial and economic impacts on countries will be averted?

“That’s going to require a lot of my time and energies, and working with other countries.”

The UN is not the only place where these discussions will take place but the topic will be “front and centre” at the world body.

When Rae assumes his newest role following the completion of Marc-André Blanchard’s four-year term at the UN, he will also go into the family business: Rae’s father, Saul, held the same position from 1972 to 1976.

Looking back at those days, his obviously proud son said he learned a lot by watching his father in action.

“I remember as a high school student, when my Dad was ambassador to the UN in Geneva, witnessing first-hand the challenges of working in a multilateral environment, and the job’s constant pace,” Rae recalled. “My Dad had a personal style that included a lot of humour and reflection – both qualities that I hope I’ve inherited.”

As for the Middle East, Rae is quick to point out his government’s belief in a two-state solution.

”Since the late 1940s and the end of the British Mandate in Palestine, the Canadian government has been a supporter of the notion of two states for two peoples,” Rae explained. “We were there when Israel was admitted to the UN; we’ve had diplomatic relations with Israel since the early 1950s. We’ve had a strong bilateral relationship with the state of Israel for a very, very long time. We’ve been part and parcel of the entire diplomatic process which proceeded since 1967 – to encourage the Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel, and for Israel to accept a two- state solution.”

Rae said the policy “struck us then as a logical approach to take, and frankly, it still underlies the positions we’ve taken.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne have made it clear that they do not support Israel’s unilateral annexation of territories in the West Bank, Rae went on.

“We still believe that direct negotiations between the parties are going to be required in order to establish any possible deal,” said Rae. “But I think we all recognize that the differences between the two sides are quite strong and have remained so for a long time, and getting to a settlement is going to be very, very difficult.”

Canada has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem or the West Bank, he noted. That’s why the government has said that Israel’s annexation plans, on hold for now, would make a settlement of the conflict “more difficult in our view.”

As for those who might see the UN as irrelevant, Rae countered: “I always said that if we didn’t have the UN, we’d have to invent something like it.”

It’s a complex institution, he noted, because it reflects a complex world.

“I believe very strongly that we need greater international cooperation to deal with the major challenges of our time,” he said. “The UN makes mistakes. The General Assembly doesn’t always vote the way we’d like them to vote. That happens. But it’s like any other institution. It’s an important part of the architecture of what’s going to be required to make the world a stable and more prosperous place.”

Elections Canada ‘Agnostic’ on Party Platforms – Even When They’re Antisemitic

July 15, 2020 – This week, the CJR queried Elections Canada about whether the agency will strip the status of the far-right Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP) or warn it against engaging in antisemitic rhetoric.

As noted in our editorial of July 15, the leader of the party, Trevor Patron, recently re-uploaded a video to social media (first posted last year) in which he called for “that parasitic tribe” to be “removed from Canada once and for all.”

Patron’s rant about “swindlers,” “snakes,” and “inside manipulators” – as well as a subsequent reference to “the synagogue of Satan” – “make his antisemitic agenda crystal clear,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated.

A flier posted on the CNP’s Facebook page is titled “Beware The Parasitic Tribe.” It includes quotations from the New Testament amid references to “inside manipulators” and stating, “everywhere these people go, they infiltrate the media, they hijack the central bank, and they infect the body politic like a parasite.

“If they had their way, our entire way of life would be eradicated.”

Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer conferred official party status on the CNP in September of last year. In the last federal election, the party ran three candidates and received 284 votes in all.

The following is the response from Elections Canada:

The Canada Elections Act, as drafted and enacted by Parliament, is agnostic when it comes to ideology or platform. Just as there is no mechanism under the Act allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to reject a new party’s application solely based on their [sic] ideology, there’s no legal mechanism that allows him to deregister a party for any reason not explicitly listed in the Act. Under the Act, a party can only be involuntarily deregistered (that is, not at the party’s own request) for the following reasons:

• A party will be deregistered if it fails to endorse a confirmed candidate at a general election. If a registered party is deregistered, its registered associations are also deregistered.

• The CEO may also deregister a registered party if it fails to:

¬ file statements confirming or amending the information in the Registry of Political Parties within 10 days of the writs being issued

¬ report on or before June 30 each year, confirming or amending the party’s information in the Registry of Political Parties

¬ report any changes to the information about the party in the Registry of Political Parties within 30 days of the change

¬ file an audited statement of its assets and liabilities within six months of its registration

¬ file the party’s audited financial transactions return for each fiscal period within six months of the end of the fiscal period

¬ file the party’s audited general election expenses return within eight months of election day

¬ file a statement setting out the dates of a leadership contest, varying the dates or cancelling the contest or

¬ file a report on a nomination contest within 30 days of the selection date


There are other pieces of legislation and frameworks that regulate the behaviour and discourse of individuals and groups in Canada, including the Criminal Code, but these are outside Elections Canada’s mandate. 

Kind regards,
Natasha Gauthier
Spokesperson, Media Relations 
Elections Canada
media@elections.ca 

EDITORIAL: Elections Canada Must Shut Down Neo-Nazi Parties

July 15, 2020 – Trevor Patron is at it again. This obscure Prairie citizen from Redvers, Sask., has doubled down on his antisemitism.

From a low last year, when he railed against the “parasitic tribe” (read: Jews) for all of Canada’s imagined problems, this week, in another outburst of Jew-hatred, Patron is calling for the expulsion of Jews from the country. His screed regurgitates the pattern of all past antisemites who sought the ouster of Jews from their midst.

But this is not news. In fact, Patron would not even be worth a mention if it weren’t for this: He is the leader of a political party officially recognized by Elections Canada.

That’s right. In September 2019, Stephane Perrault, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, informed Patron that the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP) had become a registered political party in Canada.

“Your party now has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a registered party under the Canada Elections Act,” Perrault wrote Patron.

This permits Patron’s fledgling band of ne’er-do-wells to run in federal elections and to receive a 75 percent tax return on any donation to the party.

(It might be some consolation to know that the CNP fielded three candidates in the last federal election and received 284 votes in total; statistically, zero percent of ballots cast).

Equally as important, Patron, as a result of a complaint laid by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) on June 26, 2019 (full disclosure: Bernie Farber, publisher of the CJR is chair of CAHN) to the Saskatchewan RCMP, Patron has been under investigation for promotion of hatred against Jews for over a year.

Yes, you read that, too, correctly: Since June of last year.

It seems incredible that the RCMP has been unable since then to reach a conclusion as to whether Patron has breached section 319 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which plainly outlines what public incitement to hatred is.

We would argue that Patron’s unsubtle words and deeds surely warrant quick and deliberate findings.

Following the June 2019 CAHN complaint, B’nai Brith Canada also wrote to the RCMP declaring its outrage, and yet the investigation continues.

Last week, following Patron’s second video, the CAHN sent another letter to the RCMP:

Dear Constable Howe,

Further to my criminal complaint against Travis PATRON filed 26 June 2019, I am writing to bring to your attention further anti-Jewish material that PATRON has published today through his Canadian Nationalist Party Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/NationalistCA/posts/) again repeatedly referring to Jews as parasites, members of the “synagogue of Satan,” that Jews control the central banks, and that they “infect the body politic like a parasite.”

The apparent pamphlet ends with the call, “And what we need to do, perhaps more than anything, is remove these people once-and-for-all from our country.”

I understand that criminal hate propaganda complaints are not commonplace, but the community as a whole and our Jewish brothers and sisters especially have the right to be protected from this corrosive poison and threats in a timely manner.  These are the types of messages that have already been found to meet the test for breaching the Criminal Code.

I urge the RCMP in the strongest possible terms to charge Travis PATRON under s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code for the wilful promotion of hatred against the Jewish community.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible,

Richard Warman
Barrister and Solicitor
Ottawa

This past week both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) along with Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, have followed the lead of CAHN and laid complaints with Saskatchewan RCMP.

The time has come. Canada should be following the example set by Germany, which has developed law ensuring that anti-democratic groups may not gain official political party status.

While Patron and company have displayed almost no political support, it takes far less for those with hate in their hearts to create havoc. Neo-Nazis ought not to be given any respect in this country, and those who violate Canadian hate law should be charged.

Canadians Opposed to Annexation, Poll Suggests

By RON CSILLAG

A new survey suggests that three out of four Canadians want their government to oppose Israel’s proposed annexation of large parts of the West Bank.

Apart from suggesting that 74 percent of Canadians want Ottawa to express opposition to Israel’s annexation proposal “in some form,” the survey also found that 42 percent want Canada to impose economic and/or diplomatic sanctions against Israel should the annexation plan proceed.

“There is very little support for Israeli annexation among the Canadian public,” the survey noted, adding that the poll “confirms” that Canada’s foreign policy “is out of touch with the preferences of Canadians.”

EKOS Research Associates conducted the national online survey of 1,009 Canadians from June 5 to 10 on behalf of three groups that oppose the annexation and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine-Israel.

The poll found that only 11 percent of respondents said Canada should support Israel’s annexation plans, and 15 percent said Canada should do nothing.

Among Liberal Party supporters, 42 percent favour sanctions, while 45 percent thought Canada should express opposition but take no further action. Only five percent of Liberals want Canada to support Israel’s plan, and eight percent would prefer Canada do nothing.

Conservatives were found to be most supportive of Israel’s annexation plan. Half of Conservative supporters think that Canada should either support the plan (27 percent) or do nothing (25 percent). Another 32 percent of Conservatives said Canada should express opposition, and 16 percent said Canada should impose sanctions.

Among Canadians aged 18 to 35, an “overwhelming majority” want Canada to oppose Israel’s plans, the poll suggested: 59 percent of respondents in that age group said Canada should impose sanctions on Israel, and 24 percent said Canada should express opposition but take no other action.

Imposing sanctions on Israel was the “clear preference” for a majority of those who support the NDP (68 percent); Green Party (59 percent), and Bloc Quebecois (54 percent).

Supporting sanctions on Israel was most popular with Canadians who have higher levels of education, but Canadians of all education levels favoured sanctions over the other options, the survey found.

The poll results “demonstrate that the Trudeau government would have strong majority support if it opposed the annexations, and considerable public support to go further and impose sanctions on Israel. In fact, from a political standpoint, it would be risky for the Trudeau government to stay quiet in the face of this violation of international law planned by Israel.”

Listed as investigators and authors of the survey are Michael Bueckert, Thomas Woodley, and Grafton Ross of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East; Sheryl Nestel and Stanislav Birko of Independent Jewish Voices Canada; and Ken McEvoy of United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine-Israel.

As with at least one other past survey conducted by pro-BDS groups, this latest one was dismissed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs as weighted to arrive at certain conclusions.

“Predictably,” questions were “intentionally biased to skew the answer,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of CIJA, told the CJR.

By “prejudicially” characterizing the lands in question as “Palestinian,” and stating that Israel plans to “formally incorporate” them, the poll’s questions “telegraph to the respondent that the territory is incontrovertibly Palestinian [and is] being stolen by Israel, and [is] not disputed.”

In doing so, “the poll seeks to exploit a generic tendency on the part of Canadians to express support for the perceived underdog,” Fogel noted.

Notwithstanding the “serious deficiencies” in the survey questions and the “dubious” motivations of the report’s sponsors, “a majority” of Canadians have indicated their opposition to any changes to Canada-Israel relations, Fogel said.

An extensive Environics survey conducted last year found a plurality of respondents endorsed Canada’s level of support for Israel, but a “significant” minority said it was not supportive enough.

However, that was before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to unilaterally annex about 30 percent of the West Bank by July 1.

The latest poll comes as more than 100 prominent Canadians – former diplomats and cabinet ministers, as well as rabbis, academics, authors, and human rights advocates – signed letters asking the government to forcefully oppose Israel’s proposed annexation.


Ron Csillag
Ron Csillag

Ron Csillag is editor of the Canadian Jewish Record