Concerns about the terrifying growth of antisemitism in Canada have been top of mind for me and many in the Jewish community for weeks. While some have thankfully spoken up, discouragingly too many remain silent despite shootings at Jewish schools, molotov cocktails and vandalism at Jewish community centres, and threats at Jewish businesses and homes. We desperately need strong, unequivocal action from our leaders, colleagues, and neighbours. Yesterday, I appeared before the Canadian Heritage committee as part of its study on “Tech Giants’ Current and Ongoing Use of Intimidation and Subversion Tactics to Evade Regulations in Canada and Across the World”. I’ll post more on the appearance on this odd study shortly – my focus was on how regulatory capture from legacy creator groups and News Media Canada undermined the Bill C-11 and C-18 process – but the discussion provided the opportunity to urge the committee to ensure accountability on antisemitism.
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Pablo Rodriguez Failed For Weeks to Say Anything About Funding for an Anti-Semite and Then Lied About What He Knew. He Should Resign.
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 one 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.
The Documents Don’t Lie, Even If It Appears Pablo Rodriguez Does: ATIP Reveals His Office Was Informed Within Minutes of CMAC/Marouf Termination Notice
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.
The Need for Truthful Accountability: What ATIP Records Tell Us About Pablo Rodriguez and Canadian Heritage Funding an Anti-Semite
The past few days have been painful to watch as Canadian politicians grapple with the aftermath of recognizing and applauding a Nazi in the House of Commons. The episode and its response brings back memories from last year’s discouraging response to revelations that Canadian Heritage’s anti-hate program had provided funding to Laith Marouf, a known anti-semite. While there are obvious differences, the commonality lies in the pain to the Jewish community and the reticence for full-throated apologies and public engagement, misplaced hope that the issue will just recede from public attention, slow commitments to ensure it does not happen again, and reluctanc
It should not come as a surprise, but those hoping that the government’s much-anticipated cabinet overhaul might signal a potential course-correction on its digital policy mess will be sorely disappointed. If anything, yesterday’s changes at Canadian Heritage and Justice suggest an acceleration of plans that will include continuing to head toward the Bill C-18 cliff of blocked news links as well as introducing controversial online harms legislation and perhaps even copyright reform. Pascale St-Onge, the new Heritage Minister, was a lobbyist in the culture sector before her election to the House of Commons and is likely to welcome the big tech battle, while removing David Lametti as Justice Minister and replacing him with Arif Virani means online harms loses an important voice for freedom of expression in favour of someone who has expressed impatience with delays in new regulations.