The government’s funding of Laith Marouf, a known anti-semite, sparked anger and condemnation last summer as many wondered how Canadian Heritage failed to conduct the necessary due diligence to weed him out as part of its anti-hate program. While government MPs such as Anthony Housefather urged action, then-Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussein was slow to respond and then-Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez inexplicably remained silent. I posted repeatedly on his silence, leading his Parliamentary Secretary, MP Chris Bittle, to suggest that I was racist and a bully. Yet as we have witnessed in recent days, when it comes to antisemitism, silence is not an option. The threat is literally playing out in our streets and campuses and we need everyone – Jews and non-Jews alike – to speak out against it and take action where necessary.
Even after Housefather pleaded with his fellow MPs to speak out, it still took Rodriguez days to say anything. And when he did, he pointedly did not issue a public statement. In fact, repeated requests for the statement he apparently provided to a single news outlet were ignored. The failure to speak out against antisemitism – the notion that it “wasn’t his file” – displayed an utter lack of awareness of the need to counter hate and stand in solidarity with affected communities. That display of weak moral character alone may not be a fireable offence, but lying to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is.
Rodriguez initially refused to appear before the committee on the Marouf affair. But when he came to committee to discuss Bill C-18 (yes, that Bill C-18), opposition MPs had questions, including this exchange with NDP MP Peter Julian:
Mr. Peter Julian: So at no point were you informed between July 19 and August 22, even though Minister Hussen was consulting with the department, looking at procedural next steps and confirming the organization’s project funding details. Is that correct?
Hon. Pablo Rodriguez: That’s correct.
That claim was never credible, but there is now evidence it was a lie. I previously posted on an Access to Information request that revealed that his officials were engaged on the issue well before August 22nd. According to a report in the Globe and Mail, Rodriguez was personally copied on emails with titles such as “Laith Marouf and antisemitic hate speech.” These emails, which were not included in the ATIP records, involved multiple colleagues and went to his personal email. Rodriguez might suggest that he didn’t read any of those emails, but when he appeared before the Committee two months later claiming he was not informed about the issue, that was a lie. He was informed, said nothing for days, and then lied about what and when he knew about it.
What kind of person fails to speak out on antisemitism and then lies about it before a House of Commons committee? A person who is not fit to serve as a government minister. Now more than ever we need accountability on matters involving hate and antisemitism. Pablo Rodriguez should resign.