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Tory MP hits back at critics of anti-Semitism conference

The Conservative MP who co-chairs a non-partisan and unofficial parliamentary committee examining anti-Semitism in Canada says critics have been too quick to pre-judge the process.

In submissions made to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism "you can see people starting off with accusations that 'here's the illegitimate conclusion that you guys have already started to arrive at' and 'here's the prescription you are going to offer, which will crush all dissent and all criticisms of Israel,' " Scott Reid said in a telephone interview on Monday.

"We weren't planning to come to the conclusions that they had pre-ordained that we would come to."

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The CPCCA is largely focussed on what it calls the "new anti-Semitism," which is defined as excessive or unjust criticism of the state of Israel. Critics charge that the definition was concocted to stifle legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

"There are certain premises we start with and I can see why someone might say 'I am worried you might come to conclusion X,' " Mr. Reid said. "That's very different to saying 'here is the conclusion you have already decided you are going to come to.' "

In fact, the report the committee planned to write after a series of hearings has yet to be released. It was expected in May but has been repeatedly delayed.

The CPCCA was formed after MPs from all parties attended a conference on anti-Semitism in London last year. A follow-up event with parliamentarians from around the world is taking place in Ottawa this week.

A group called Independent Jewish Voices, which does not agree that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and which was not permitted to testify before the committee, suggests the report has been delayed because witnesses did not confirm a rampant spread of anti-Semitism in Canada.

But Mr. Reid said that is not true. The report will be released, he said, hopefully before the next federal election. He attributes the delays to editorial issues, staffing changes and a decision to hold extra hearings.

Some critics have pointed out that Statistics Canada says there are more hate crimes directed at black people in Canada than at Jews and suggest that the focus on anti-Semitism by MPs is a crude political attempt to court the Jewish vote.

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But Mr. Reid said the discussion of anti-Semitism does not use up all of the goodwill that exists on the part of Canadians for resolving issues related hate directed at minority groups.

"On the contrary, " he said, "I think the best way to think of this is the anti-xenophobic, anti-racist, anti-bigotry muscle gets exercised and the more it gets exercised, the stronger it is for dealing with all of those other forms of racism, xenophobia and bigotry."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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