The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications resumes its hearings into Bill C-11 this week with plans for four sessions that will hear from a wide range of witnesses. Given the shortcomings of the House committee hearings – numerous important stakeholders were not given the opportunity to appear – the Senate review this fall provides a critical opportunity to re-examine the bill and to address some of its obvious flaws. With that in mind, this post is the first of a series that highlights some of Bill C-11’s major risks and concerns.
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Why Have So Many Cabinet Members Still Not Spoken Out on Stopping Government Funding for an Anti-Semite?
Earlier this week, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather called on all 338 Members of Parliament to say something about the need to combat anti-semitism and to express concern about the government’s funding of an anti-semite as part of its anti-hate program. At that point, there were few MPs who had spoken publicly, leaving the issue largely to Jewish MPs to express concern. As I noted in a post reflecting on the issue, the message in the silence is that anti-semitism is a Jewish problem, not a broader societal concern. While I realize there is something performative about issuing a statement via tweet, elected officials do this all the time as a signal of their priorities or interests and to amplify their message.
Yet days later, the message has not been amplified and it would appear that the issue is not a priority. As of last night, I could find that only 1/3 of the cabinet has said anything about this issue in the weeks since it emerged: 11 cabinet ministers by tweet or retweet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in two press conferences, and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in a statement provided in response to a journalist query (but, to date, no actual statement has been publicly released).
Silent No More: Liberal MP Anthony Housefather Calls on All 338 MPs to Speak Out on Anti-Semitism and Ensuring No Government Funding for Anti-Semite
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.
A Failure of Responsibility: My Reflections on Canadian Heritage Funding an Anti-Semite and Being Wrongly Called Racist by a Sitting MP
It is thankfully not everyday that a sitting Member of Parliament uses social media to suggest that you are racist. Yet that is precisely what happened to me last week when Chris Bittle, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, suggested that my public comments on Twitter calling for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to say something about his department funding an anti-semite as part of its anti-hate program was grounded in racism. Bittle has since deleted the post and apologized. In light of considerable media coverage (CBC, Postmedia) and words of support that came from friends, colleagues, and elected officials from across the political spectrum, I spent the weekend thinking about the incident and decided to offer some reflections.
Parliament may be on a summer recess, but the debate over Bill C-11, which is now in the Senate, continues. Yesterday, I engaged in a Twitter debate with Matthew Gray, an official in the office of Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez that ultimately focused on the relative importance of the government’s “policy intention” vs. the actual text of the bill. While officials and Minister Rodriguez regularly point to what they intend the bill to do, experts note that the text does not reflect those intentions.