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June 14, 2021 3:56 pm

Canada’s Ruling Liberals Announce Emergency Summit on Antisemitism Amid Internal Row Over Anti-Zionist Parliamentarian

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Irwin Cotler, currently Canada’s special envoy to combat antisemitism. Photo: Blair Gable

Canada’s government has announced that it will host an emergency summit on antisemitism, to be hosted by one of the country’s most distinguished human rights advocates.

No date has yet been announced for the summit, which will be convened by Irwin Cotler, Canada’s special envoy to combat antisemitism. A former MP from the ruling Liberal Party, Cotler has served as Canada’s Justice Minister. In a long career as a human rights lawyer, Cotler’s clients included the late Nelson Mandela, the former South African President.

The Friday announcement of the summit was warmly welcomed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in Canada.

“Jews in Canada and around the globe are being targeted for their identity and for expressing solidarity with their fellow Jews in Israel who were under attack from Hamas, a listed terrorist organization,” the group’s president, Shimon Koffler Fogel, said in a statement.

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“We have witnessed antisemitism targeting Jewish owned businesses, in schools, in workplaces, in unions, and on our streets. Moreover, we have seen an unprecedented spike in antisemitic vitriol expressed online,” Koffler Fogel added.

However, news of the forthcoming summit came amid a row over antisemitism within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

Last week, Green Party MP Jenica Atwin defected to Trudeau’s ranks. Pro-Israel MPs criticized the welcome afforded to Atwin given her recent inflammatory tweets during the conflict in May between Israel and Hamas.

On Twitter, Atwin argued that there are “no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses” by Israel.

“I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza. End Apartheid!” she wrote.

Atwin’s fellow Liberal MP, Anthony Housefather, said he was relieved that the Trudeau government had essentially disavowed her stance on Israel.

“I clearly disagree with her comments on Israel and I was pleased to see that the Minister of Global Affairs made clear in question period that this is absolutely contrary to the position of our Government,” Housefather said in an email to The Globe and Mail.

Housefather was referring to a statement on Friday from Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, unequivocally rejecting the comparison between the racist white minority regime in South Africa and the modern State of Israel.

“I will simply say that the position of the Liberal government is extremely clear on the question of the apartheid label. We reject it, categorically,” Garneau said.

“It is not part of our approach with respect to Israel or the Jewish community. We, of course, are completely against any antisemitism that would be displayed by any Canadian citizen,” he added.

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