The Jewish community of Canada, which is the fourth largest Jewish community in the world and the third largest in the Diaspora, is likely to be targeted for hate crimes Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freelandwarned on Thursday.
Speaking at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem at a meeting co-hosted by the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the Canadian Embassy, Freeland said that as a Canadian politician it was an important reality for her to acknowledge that antisemitism is very real. She has advocated the need to speak out in defense of liberal democracy and against all forms of xenophobia, racism, discrimination and antisemitism.
“We need to speak out and also act,” she said.
Because she was in Israel, she also wanted to foreshadow the apology that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to make in the House of Commons this Wednesday for Canada’s turning back of the German ocean liner St. Louis in 1939, which held close to 900 Jewish refugees aboard, many of whom were later murdered in death camps.
In a wide-ranging talk followed by a conversation with ICFR chairman Dan Meridor, who is a former justice minister of Israel, and who was described by Canada’s former justice Irwin Cotler as “the personification of the rule of law,” Freeland focused largely on human rights issues, liberal democracy and the dilemma of choosing between national interests and moral values.
In the latter instance, she was asked at question time about the morality of Canada selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for its violation of human rights.
Freeland said that Canada is reviewing its arms sales. In the past, she added, exports of weapons have been suspended when human rights issues are being considered.
She declared that Canada is appalled by what is happening in Yemen and insisted that a cease-fire is “absolutely essential” so that the population can have access to humanitarian aid, an issue that is close to her heart wherever populations are under threat.
Canada is currently making a bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. If it succeeds, Canada’s presence on the council “should be an asset for Israel,” she said.
A former journalist with a distinguished record of accomplishments, Freeland was asked about the murder of journalists and incitement by politicians against journalists. She said that both were “unacceptable” and emphasized the need “to trust our professional journalists.”