When national concern broke out over Canadian Heritage funding an anti-semite as part of its anti-hate program in August 2022, then Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez was nowhere to be found. While specific responsibility for the program lay with cabinet colleague Ahmed Hussen, internal documents obtained under the Access to Information Act reveal that Rodriguez’s office was well aware of the issue. But when Rodriguez appeared before the Canadian Heritage committee last fall and was asked about the issue, he said he knew nothing about it until August 22, 2022. As I posted yesterday, that testimony appears to be false as his chief of staff, deputy minister, and office personnel raised concerns nearly a week before that date.
In fact, additional documents obtained under ATIP indicate that Rodriguez’s office was kept abreast of major developments for days, including immediately being informed on August 19th that Canadian Heritage legal personnel had served Marouf’s organization with notice that it was terminating the contribution contract. That notification, which went from Heritage Deputy Minister Isabelle Mondou to Rodriguez Chief of Staff John Matheson, was literally sent within four minutes of Marouf having been served. In other words, there was clear urgency to keep Rodriguez’s team updated on the latest developments, particularly given the fact that Matheson had escalated concerns days earlier.
Some of that concern may have stemmed from a letter received by Rodriguez two days earlier from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a leading voice for Jewish Canadians, expressing concern about the funding and calling for a comprehensive review of the anti-hate program. Matheson quickly forwarded the letter to the Mondou, who said a response was expected within a week.
The documents don’t lie, even if it appears that Pablo Rodriguez does. The inescapable conclusion is that his chief of staff and deputy minister were concerned and engaged with the antisemitism issue, quickly informing each other of the latest developments. CIJA wrote directly to Rodriguez well before he claims to have been aware of the issue. The letter did not get lost as his chief of staff immediately forwarded it to the deputy minister for a response. Yet as a witness in a House of Commons committee, Rodriguez told MP Peter Julian that he was not aware of any of this for days. When combined with widespread media coverage – the ATIP documents confirm that his media department was being kept in the loop – it simply isn’t a credible claim. The self-evident reality is that Canadian Heritage funded an anti-semite, Rodriguez said nothing for days and never issued a public statement. And then when he was asked about it in committee, he appears to have lied about it. Antisemitism should not be hard: speak out loudly, immediately, and truthfully. Rodriguez did none of these things.