Dec. 17, 2020
By RON CSILLAG
Newly-minted Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks (York Centre) has written to Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole asking that he condemn “vile antisemitic theories” surrounding billionaire philanthropist George Soros “promoted” by some Conservative MPs.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, several members of your caucus have promoted baseless conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric,” Saks wrote in her letter to O’Toole on Dec. 14.
“I refer to the misinformation around George Soros and the vile antisemitic theories about the World Economic Forum. To date, you have yet to publicly denounce this behaviour or reprimand your members,” Saks wrote.
The latest episode took place in the House of Commons on Dec. 8 when someone called out “George Soros” as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was speaking.
Following question period, Liberal MP Omar Alghabra said it was Conservative member John Brassard (Barrie-Innisfill) who had shouted Soros’s name.
“Maybe he wants to explain what he said here in the chamber,” Alghabra said.
Soros is a frequent lightning rod for antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories. A Hungarian Holocaust survivor, he’s a heavy funder of liberal causes and a favourite target of the far-right, which accuses him of helping fellow financiers plot a global takeover in a “new world order.”
Freeland wrote about Soros during her previous career as a journalist and has met with him since entering politics.
After being accused by Alghabra, Brassard was defiant.
“There was nothing in what I said that was in any way antisemitic, and I am not going to sit here and take what they are doing in this situation lightly,” he told the House.
“I encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to listen to what was said. There was nothing in there that was in any way antisemitic, and I am not going to sit here and take what they have to say.”
In August, British Columbia Conservative MP Kerri-Lynne Findlay apologized after retweeting a video of Freeland interviewing Soros when she was a journalist with the Financial Times in 2009.
Findlay said Freeland’s closeness with Soros should alarm every Canadian, and that Freeland listened to him “like student to teacher.”
Findlay said she had “thoughtlessly” shared the video, whose source “promotes hateful conspiracy theories…I have removed the tweets and apologize.”
In her letter, which does not mention Brassard or Findlay by name, Saks said “this kind of misinformation amplifies the rise in antisemitism and antisemitic conspiracies that have arisen during the COVID pandemic and that Jewish Canadians know all too well. It threatens the safety of Jewish Canadians and subjects them to hostility, prejudice, and discrimination, but its ultimate result is the erosion of public trust in democracy. As Members of Parliament, we have an obligation to take a stand to ensure that the rights of all Canadians are upheld. The failure to address antisemitism within your caucus remains unacceptable.”
Saks, who won York Centre in October’s byelection, called on the Tory leader “to condemn this antisemitic rhetoric and uphold the rights and trust of Canadians.”
Neither O’Toole nor Brassard returned the CJR’s requests for comment. As of this writing, Saks’ office says it has not had a reply from O’Toole.
The day after Saks sent her letter, Winnipeg-area Conservative MP Marty Morantz issued a series of tweets championing his party’s support for Israel and Canadian Jewry:
• “Conservatives have unequivocally supported Canada’s Jewish community and the state of Israel. Any statement to the contrary is misleading and wrong.
• “Under our Conservative leadership, Canada became the Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). As Chair, Canada committed to an ambitious campaign to raise Holocaust awareness and fight antisemitism at home and abroad.
• “I’m proud to work with elected officials from around the world as part of an Online Antisemitism Taskforce. Our taskforce aims to work with online platforms like Facebook and Twitter so that hateful antisemitic comments are treated as hate speech and dealt with appropriately.
• “Let’s look at the Liberal record. The Liberals voted against Israel at the United Nations General Assembly and committed new funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. This is an organization whose schools have been used as storage facilities for Hamas rockets to be used against Israeli civilians, and whose facilities have served as breeding grounds for anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiments. The Liberals have doubled down on these anti-Israel activities, even after badly losing their [bid for a UN Security Council seat],” Morantz tweeted.
And in a conference call with ethno-cultural media earlier this month, O’Toole took the Liberal government to task for failing to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity.
O’Toole reminded reporters that in 2018, the House of Commons passed a Conservative motion supporting the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group, “and the Liberals themselves voted for it, and then they did nothing on it.”
The Liberals “have dragged their feet for several years. It will really take a change in government to have this issue taken seriously,” he said.
In 2012, under the Stephen Harper government, Canada listed a subgroup of the IRGC, the Quds Force, as a terrorist organization.