Letter asks PM to muzzle minister
Kenney Under Fire
Published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009
A letter circulated by the Canadian Arab Federation slams Immigration Minister Jason Kenney over funding remarks.
Jason Kenney's office dismissed as “pathetic” a letter circulated yesterday by the Canadian Arab Federation calling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to slap a muzzle on his Immigration Minister.
The letter, signed by about two dozen Arab organizations across the country, urges Mr. Harper to “restrain” Mr. Kenney and “put an end to his dangerous campaign of attacking CAF with slandering and damaging accusations for which he has provided no evidence.”
It cites apprehension over Mr. Kenney's decision to review the CAF's public funding, a move the Immigration Minister took after the federation's president, Khaled Mouammar, called Mr. Kenney a “professional whore” over his support for Israel.
Mr. Kenney's office has also acknowledged in recent days that there may be legitimate concerns over Mr. Mouammar's decade-long stint on the Immigration and Refugee Board. His acceptance rates were nearly twice the national average during his time on the board between 1995 and 2005.
In yesterday's letter, the group cites its support for the CAF and rejects “baseless accusations” made by the National Post — which reported the story about Mr. Mouammar's IRB statistics last week — and by the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith and Mr. Kenney.
“We are deeply concerned that the inflammatory remarks made by Mr. Jason Kenney, both in Canada and overseas, are creating a wedge in Canadian society and have inflamed a campaign to marginalize and demonize the already targeted Arab and Muslim Canadian communities,” the letter states.
Signatories include Palestine House, Canadian Lebanese for Dialogue and the Ottawa-based Ahlul Bayt Centre, among others.
Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for the Immigration Minister, immediately jumped on the lack of high-profile Arab organizations on the list, such as the National Council on Canadian-Arab Relations and the Islamic Society of North America.
“That these groups aren't signatories is to me very telling,” Mr. Velshi said. “In fact, their absence underscores how unrepresentative the signatories are of the grassroots of the community. Most of them barely exist even on letterhead, some don't have Web sites, or any ongoing operations or programs.”
Those who did sign represent a “tiny” and “quite radicalised minority” of Arab-Canadian organizations, Mr. Velshi suggested, adding the Immigration Minister's position on the CAF remains unchanged.
“Groups that promote hatred and anti-Semitism don't deserve a single red cent of taxpayer support. End of story,” Mr. Velshi said.
The letter contends the group of Arab organizations opposes “all forms of racism,” arguing that criticism of Israel's military has been erroneously equated with anti-Semitism.
The Prime Minister's Office lined up behind Mr. Kenney, saying Mr. Harper was “very supportive and proud” of the Immigration Minister's work.
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