Minister Jason Kenney: blind, prejudiced, and confused

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.


Calling out smear campaigns: Tarek Fatah on CAF

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) has within the past year or so come under attack from several angles. It has been a target of smears and unsubstantiated claims from individuals who claim that they speak for the rest of Canada while protecting Canadians from CAF’s anti-Canadian philosophies. The ludicrous nature of these claims did not deter efforts leading to a cut in federal funding for CAF. Furthermore, CAF is still a constant punching bag for polemicists and blowhards who will find any way possible to discredit CAF for political and/or personal reasons. Tarek Fatah proves himself to be among the most prolific of these smear machines. Omar Shaban, a CAF board member and a member of the executive committee recently took a personal position on his Facebook profile. He made it clear that he did not want to celebrate Canada Day like the rest of the country. He expressed this by writing “F**k Canada Day” as his status (ignorance or malice has led some to shorten it to just “F**k Canada”). His unwillingness to celebrate Canada Day stemmed from his belief that one should remember the elimination of First Peoples cultures upon the founding of Canada. This was Shaban’s personal statement on a private profile available only to his online friends. This did not stop Tarek Fatah from seizing the opportunity to further smear the Canadian Arab Federation. Apparently, Shaban’s unwillingness to celebrate the national holiday (and using the opportunity to remind Canadians of Canada’s neglected First Nations population) poses as undeniable proof of anti-Canadian hatred. It also somehow serves to provide accurate reflection on the Canadian Arab Federation (the organization sent out Happy Canada Day greetings over its list serve). Fatah simply displays Shaban’s Facebook screen shots (http://www.averroespress.com/AverroesPress/Main/Entries/2009/7/1_As_Canadians_celebrate_National_Holiday%2C_Canadian_Arab_Federation_VP_says%2C_%E2%80%9CF__k_Canada_Day%E2%80%9D.html) and leaves it all up to interpretation. But any sane mind can decipher the lewd connections he wants everyone to make. Again, CAF is the evil anti-Canadian organization always firing off unpatriotic comments. Nothing is mentioned about the context of Shaban’s statement, his indignation of the treatment of Canadian First Peoples, and the actual work that CAF does: language classes, job search workshops, etc. This is an opportunist trying to throw defecation onto a wall and hoping that something sticks. The ridiculousness stinks to high heaven.