The Law Bytes podcast returns with a special episode focused on combatting online anti-semitism with a particular emphasis on an incident involving the department of Canadian Heritage and Laith Marouf, a well known anti-semite. As part of Heritage’s anti-hate program, the government had provided funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC), led by Marouf, to develop an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting. While there was years of evidence of Marouf’s anti-semitism, the department didn’t look or didn’t find it. The contract was cancelled after a public outcry, but even that led to concerns as it was left to Jewish MPs such as Anthony Housefather, Ya’ara Saks, and Melissa Lantsman to say something while many others remained silent.
Anthony Housefather, a Liberal MP from Montreal, not only spoke out on the Marouf situation but also called on all MPs to become more vocal. Housefather has been working on the online anti-semitism issue with politicians from around the world as part of an Inter-Parliamentary Task Force on Online Antisemitism and he joins me on the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the work of the task force and its recent hearing in Washington, DC, the Marouf incident, and the urgency for all to speak out more aggressively against anti-semitism.
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My post yesterday focused on the government’s multiple failures with regard to providing funding to an anti-semite as part of the Canadian Heritage anti-hate program. It examined the department’s failure to conduct proper due diligence, the failure of most Liberal MPs to speak out, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage Chris Bittle’s since deleted tweet that suggested I was racist when I expressed concern about silence from government ministers such as Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.
One of the most notable aspects of the post was the emphasis on how it has been left largely to Jewish MPs such as Anthony Housefather and Ya’ara Saks to say something about the issue. While there have been a few other responses to media or constituent questions, pro-active statements have been shockingly missing. That reality may have sparked Housefather to issue a call for all 338 MPs to speak out.
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The Liberal government’s push to pass Bill C-10 took a disturbing turn at the Canadian Heritage committee yesterday as the Liberal MPs overruled the committee chair to allow for dozens of undisclosed amendments to be voted on without any debate or discussion. While the MPs on the committee have access to the amendments, they are not made available to the public until after the committee completes its review. In normal circumstances, an amendment is introduced by an MP (the amendment may not be posted but it is often read into the record by the MP and its intent is discussed), there is an opportunity to ask questions of department officials on the implications of the amendment, MPs engage in debate and can propose sub-amendments. Once all MPs are satisfied that they understand the implications of the amendment, it comes to a vote. All of this takes place in a transparent, public manner.
Not with Bill C-10, however. For example, yesterday the committee approved amendment LIB-7N. The only thing disclosed during the committee meeting was that it amends something in clause 8 in the bill. The specific amendment was not publicly disclosed, there were no department officials to comment or answer questions, there was no debate, and no opportunity for sub-amendment. The amendment was simply raised by number and MPs were asked to vote on it. The amendment passed with the support of Liberal, Bloc, and NDP MPs. This form of secret law making is shocking and a complete reversal from a government that claimed to prioritize transparency. Indeed, it is hard to think of a more secretive law making process in a democracy than passing amendments to a bill that are not made available to the public prior to the vote nor open for any discussion or debate.
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