Chronicle, Martin C. Barry MP Marlene Jennings delivers her speech.
Dion’s Liberals would help Israel’s peace plans, says Jennings
BY MARTIN C. BARRY
Newly elected Liberal leader Stéphane Dion considers the Jewish community to be the "bellwether" of Canadian society’s overall health in terms of mutual respect, diversity and security, says NDG-Lachine MP Marlene Jennings.
Jennings addressed members of Côte St. Luc’s Beth Zion Congregation last Sunday morning on how Canada can help Israel achieve peace with its neighbours in the Middle East.
Seeking to be returned to office in a national election expected as early as next spring, she stood by the Liberals’ record for defending Israel, against claims — made by some congregation members — that the Conservatives under Stephen Harper have been more supportive.
"I have a larger Muslim community than I do a Jewish community," Jennings said at one point during an exchange. "If my being a supporter of the only democratic state in the Middle East means that I lose an election, so be it. I would lose it with prid e, and I would hope that my other parliamentarians also take principled positions like that."
Jennings said that former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin initiated a major shift in Canada’s foreign policy when he responded to public demands that the country stop supporting United Nations resolutions sponsored by nations which are hostile towards Israel.
"I’m happy to say that the new prime minister, Mr. Harper, has continued that policy," she said.
Jennings said that if the U.N. continues to go in its current direction and cannot be reformed, "then we need to look to other agencies and avenues and forums."
She suggested organizations, like the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie, "can take much more precedence and importance in the whole global and international scene … We may then be in a position to create something else."
By the time congregation members got around to firing a few questions back at her, Jennings was reminded by one woman that the Liberal Party — including members and MPs — "were knocking Harper" for his strong support of Israel over the past summer.
"The perception among many Jewish
voters — let me put it that way — is that the Liberal Party has not supported Israel in the way the community thought it should," the woman said.
Jennings replied that Liberal governments have been very supportive of Israel since 1947 and that the Conservatives’ current stance is only a continuation of policies the Liberals started.
Confronted by another congregation member with similar criticisms, Jennings responded, "I don’t know how to answer that. I gave you the overview, the actual facts.
"I know that there are those who have attempted to portray the position that the new Canadian government, headed by Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party, as suddenly fundamentally differing from that under the Liberals," she said.