On January 15th, 2009, the University of Toronto at Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) hosted a lecture by American academic Dr. Norman Finkelstein. The lecture focused on the Gaza Massacres of 2008-2009. In front of an audience of over 500, Finkelstein criticized the Harper administration for complicity. He went on to call Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a “professional whore of war”, and a “high priced whore” for his inaction, and unwillingness to criticize Israel.
This “controversial” remark was then quoted by Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), two days later at a rally in front of MP Peter Kent’s office in Thornhill. Mouammar applied these remarks with indignation at Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism).
On February 17th, 2009, Minister Jason Kenney was ready to cut federal funding to CAF. This would eliminate CAF’s eleven year-old Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, a program that taught English to new immigrants. The suspicious timing of this decision was hastily/crudely covered by Kenney’s baseless excuse that CAF’s executive committee (a volunteer committee), supported “Islamic extremism” and sympathized with “global jihadists” like HAMAS and Hizbullah. Kenney also stated that he would lift the sanction if CAF rid itself of its leadership, or adopt a more “moderate” view. In other words, agree with us, or suffer funding loss.
It is now more or less difficult to deduce whether the Minister’s decision rested upon the above allegations, or hurt feelings. Of course, Kenney sticks to the former: “When I first became Minister over 2 years ago, one of the very first things I said to my bureaucrats on the very first day in my Department of Multiculturalism was that we would not be funding groups that promote extremism, defend or apologize for terrorism or terrorist organizations and promote hatred, and as I mentioned specifically two groups: the Canadian Arab Federation and the Canadian Islamic Congress (Jason Kenney interview from AM 770 – Alberta).” Of course, the Minister’s dedication to moral stiffness and Canadian national security spanned way back, much farther than the Mouammar “insult”. CAF’s invitations vis a vis the Kenney gang was met with no response. This stalemate has led to a current judicial review by Canadian legal authourities.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are amoung the leading international human rights organization detailing and documenting Israel’s human rights atrocities during its 60+ years of existence. During Israel’s brutal assault on the Gaza Strip 2008-2009, Canada was the only country out of a whopping 40 nations in the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against a resolution condemning Israel’s actions. The assault claimed over 1500 lives and injured 5000 or so in an area with a population that’s 55% children. Jason Kenney labeled Canada’s decision as his “proudest moment”, along with his announcement that Canada would boycott the Durban II conference.
It is impossible to view the actions of the Minister without disgust. With some of CAF’s executive committee joining in with the rest of the world’s criticism for Israel, Jason Kenney refuses to even acknowledge the most heinous of Israel’s crimes. Let’s be clear: white phosphorous, and aerial assault on the world’s most dense geographical area does not equate “precision bombing”, a most reprehensible oxymoron. Instead, in a country that receives more immigrants per capita than any other country in order to sustain itself socially and economically, Kenney has decided to eliminate CAF’s language instruction program. Think about it: a Conservative government always yapping about how Canada needs to be a melting pot and more assimilated/integrated/united is doing something directly opposite of its own stated inclinations. It’s a sure-fire way of indicating that this decision is aimed to bully, and blackmail CAF via collective punishment of those who depend on CAF the most. I’m not even mentioning the loss of jobs.
Considering the fact that the Conservative government makes no real efforts question Israel, to engage CAF in meaningful discussions, or to issue any statements regarding Israeli human rights abuses, it is safe to say that Jason Kenney’s decision is an attempt to silence those who differ politically from him. It’s a spoilt child’s way of getting what he wants, and a pathetic imitation of 1984-ish totalitarianism.