Content of Flyer–Speaker’s Ruling
Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak here tonight. It is an important discussion, and I am very pleased to stand in support of the Speaker’s ruling today on the question of privilege on behalf of my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, because I also view it as a question of privilege for myself.
I would have hoped, and I would have expected, a government, my government, the Government of Canada, to have stood here this afternoon and, after the Speaker’s ruling, to disavow the flyer that had gone out, to make an effort to bring people together, to apologize, which I would agree is not sufficient, rather than to demonize, to divide, to continue to draw a wedge between Canadians, and to present information that it knows to be misleading and not factual over and over again and repeat it over and over again as though repeating it frequently will make it a truth.
I want to put a few things on the record. It is important to note that it was a Liberal government in Canada that, on November 29, 1947, helped to vote the state of Israel into being. Canadian support for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security has been a constant in Canadian foreign policy ever since.
There have been times, no doubt, when reasonable people could disagree with the policies or actions of an Israeli government. After all, we all know that in Israel itself there has always been opposition and disagreement with the government of the day. That goes with living in a democracy.
Who knows? If Conservative backbenchers were allowed to think for themselves or deviate from script, they might occasionally be critical of an Israeli government, or of their own, without being thought anti-Semitic or anti-Conservative.
However, neither in Israel nor in Canada has there ever been any question about Israel’s right to a secure existence.
In the 61 years since the creation of the state of Israel, 11 people have occupied the office of Prime Minister of Canada and none, until now, has ever sought to turn that broad support for Israel into an issue of partisan politics. However, the current government and the current Prime Minister try to govern on the principle of divide and conquer, divide and rule. In this case, they are doing it by singling out Canadian Jews for a special message and it is a message that, I would submit, is based on deception, innuendo, half-truths and non-truths.
For the current government, such conduct seems to be instinctive. However, I would submit again that it is not the Canadian way. A government that sees nothing wrong with a ten percenter targeting Canadian Jews now will see nothing wrong with targeting Sikhs or Muslims or Serbs or Bosnians tomorrow.
The manipulation of religious or ethnic minorities for short-term political gain, I would submit again, is a recipe for long-term disaster. A country like ours becomes ungovernable when a government seeks to mobilize or divide people on the basis of their culture and their religion.
In this particular case, a ten percenter targeted at Jews or any other minority attempts to turn them into political fodder and the communities in which they live into someone else’s battleground.
As a Canadian Jew, I would say that we are quite capable of managing our own disagreements without the interference of the national government or any political party.
I want to reference the ten percenters which the parliamentary secretary spoke about. He talked about other parties submitting ten percenters.
I think it is important that we all realize that 69% of the ten percenters that go out from this House are sent out by the party opposite, most into ridings that it does not hold; 11% are sent out by the New Democratic Party; and 13% by the official opposition.
These ten percenters, as well, were targeted into the very ridings that the strongest advocates for good Canada-Israel relations live in.
The loudest voices against anti-Semitism are those individuals whose ridings were targeted. The flyers were sent to denigrate the members and denigrate their records and reputation. It is reprehensible. Moreover, singling out Jews and Jewish communities in this way is appalling, demeaning and potentially dangerous. It is not flattering. It does not confer special status, yet the party opposite has no scruples about playing off Jews, one against another, or playing one group of Canadians against another, or singling out Jews for special attention and treatment. I think Jews with any historical memory ought to be very nervous when a government starts targeting them for special treatment or special messages. We have been there before and we are in very dangerous territory.
Historically, Jews have been a marginalized, vulnerable, identifiable cultural group. The government should not be in the business of separating them or, indeed, any minority of Canadians from the general citizenry and targeting them for its own security are not and should not be partisan issues. Yet, through these flyers, that is what the government is offering: an appeal to fear that can only poison the wells within the Jewish community and between the Jewish community and the wider community of Canadians.
I want to read into the record, and perhaps it has been done before I was in the House this afternoon, the comments made by my leader, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, at a Canadian Jewish Congress meeting. He said:
||My party will never claim to be the only genuine defenders of Israel in Canadian politics, because I don’t want my party to be alone in the defense of Israel, I want all parties to defend Israel
I referenced this before in a statement I made in the House the other day. Many of us will have seen in films or in documentaries that very famous exchange between Senator Joe McCarthy and Joe Welch who was chief counsel for the army in the so-called Army versus McCarthy hearings. Wanting to discredit Welch, McCarthy tried to discredit a young lawyer in Welch’s firm. Welch responded with words that have resonated down through the intervening years and they are words that might be addressed to this government. He said:
||Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness.
||Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
I would submit that if the Conservatives cannot see the value of having all parties standing together in support of Israel, I would say that perhaps their interests lie outside the Jewish community of Canada. Dividing a wedge among us is not the way to govern this country.
Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre for a very fine presentation, and my good friend from Mount Royal with respect to the interventions he made.
I want to read into the record a couple of things. I know a number of papers have been read into the record but a recent editorial in the Toronto Star read as follows:
||Through a deliberate twisting of the facts, the flyers suggested that the Liberals are anti-Semites.
It goes on to say:
|| What is really grating about these vile flyers is that they were delivered at taxpayers’ expense….
A third quote is as follows:
|| [The Prime Minister] and his party should repudiate the flyers and apologize for having distributed them.
I think my friends opposite need to reflect on what has happened. I know we all get engaged in partisan exchange and in very vigorous political fights. As somebody who has been through a few of those myself and having delivered a couple of blows, some of them unfair, over 30 years, I think we would all say that there are times and moments when we might have wished that we had not said something that we had said.
I think this is a time for all of us to reflect on a couple of things. The first is the issue of substance before us, that is to say the content of the leaflet that was distributed. I find that I am in agreement with the comments made by the Toronto Star with respect to the document. It is vile and it associates the Liberal Party with anti-Semitism.
When we come to understand a little better the history and meaning of that terrible phenomenon in world history, we need to understand how deeply wrong it is for a political party to accuse another political party of hosting or encouraging any such views. To put it in more accurate terms, anti-Semitism is Jew hatred and the suggestion that members of the Liberal Party engage in that kind of activity is, frankly, nauseating.
The second is the question of these flyers. I am happy to engage in a discussion with my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh with respect to the issue of what we should do about the ten percenters, but if anybody thinks that this can be allowed to continue at taxpayer expense, they are sadly mistaken.
Hon. Anita Neville:
Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague named it for what it is. It is Jew hatred and to submit that anybody on this side, most notably those who had the flyers dumped into their ridings, are haters of Jews is vile and abhorrent.
Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, we have a tremendous opportunity to serve in the House and to serve beside many great Canadians and none greater than the member for Mount Royal, who brought this motion forward, and my colleague who just addressed the House on this particular topic.
I had the privilege of coming to the House with the member for Winnipeg South Centre nine years ago. We were both in the class of 2000 and a group of us, who still remain from that class, had a gathering last night. We talked about the highlights and the lowest points that we have experienced in the House over the course of nine years, because there are many highs and lows.
I wonder if she would take the opportunity to share her lowest point with the people who are watching this debate at home and those in the gallery today.
Hon. Anita Neville:
Mr. Speaker, that is a difficult question to answer.
Last night, the class of 2000 played a game of talking about the highest and the lowest moments in our nine years here. We each submitted those memorable moments, some positive and some negative. As the member well knows, my reference was this past week. This past week has been the lowest of the lowest that I have ever experienced in this House.
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