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The federal government is conducting a “full analysis” of funding for the anti-racism group, whose senior adviser sent a series of tweets about “Jewish white supremacists,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
The government has cut funding to the Public Media Defense Center and is putting in place procedures “so that this never happens again,” he told a news conference.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that federal dollars go to this organization that demonstrates xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Last week, Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen, who was also at the press conference, cut public funding for the Community Media Advocacy Center by $133,000 and suspended the anti-racism project it oversees after “reprehensible and vile” tweets posted by its senior consultant. Leith Maruf was born.
Trudeau’s comments come as the organization’s other past funding is scrutinized.
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Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mark Miller said this week that he wants the money given to CMAC through Canada’s 2018 summer jobs program to be returned.
He said an application for a $2,882 CMAC grant for a program that offers work experience to people aged 15-30 and is administered by Employment and Social Development Canada was considered at the time by his constituency in Wil- Marie, Que.
CMAC was approved for that amount but ultimately received only $795, according to spokesperson Marcy Yen, the minister for women, gender equality and youth, who publicly launched the program this year.
“Not a cent of public money should go to organizations that hold anti-Semitic views,” Miller tweeted. He said he had never met Maruf, whose views he described as “despicable”.
A spokeswoman for Miller’s federal agency said, “Obviously this organization should not receive any additional funding.”
“After the funding was made available, Leith Marouf made anti-Semitic comments that are reprehensible and inconsistent with the goals of the Canada Summer Jobs program,” Miller’s office added.
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Shimon Koffler Vogel, CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization appreciates Miller’s “clear and unambiguous statement about the importance of public funding, which should not go to groups that harbor and support anti-Semitic views.”
“We call on the ministries concerned to be transparent and provide detailed information in a timely manner on their investigations into the systemic failures that led to this inappropriate funding,” he added.
Opposition MPs are calling for a full scrutiny of CMAC’s funding from government departments and through federal programs, including its participation in proceedings by Canada’s federal broadcasting regulator.
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CMAC describes itself on its website as a non-profit organization supporting “indigenous, racial, and disability self-determination in the media through research, relationship building, advocacy, and education.”
The Twitter account of Maruf, a consultant to the organization, is private. But a screenshot posted online shows a series of tweets with his photo and name.
One tweet read: “You know all those vociferous bags of human feces aka Jewish white supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they came from, they will again become the quiet bitches of (their) Christian/secular white masters for supremacy.”
Stephen Ellis, Maruf’s attorney, distinguished between Maruf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists'” and Jews or the Jewish people in general.
Maruf harbors “no animosity towards the Jewish faith as a collective group,” Ellis said in an email.
“While not very artfully worded, these tweets reflect frustration with the reality of Israeli apartheid and the Canadian government that is cooperating with it,” Ellis said.
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Since 2016, CMAC has received approximately $500,000 in funding to act as a public interest group in Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission proceedings, according to public records.
The money came from the Broadcast Participation Fund, an independent body set up by the CRTC to pay for the participation of public interest groups in the affairs of the CRTC.
In 2021, CMAC also participated in the CRTC’s consultation on regulations amending accessibility reporting requirements for broadcasters and telcos.
According to publicly available documents detailing the payments, Marouf and his wife, Gretchen King, whose name also appears in the CMAC documents, received money for their participation in the proceedings.
They were paid money from a deferral account owned by Bell, which the company agreed to turn over to CRTC to public interest groups on its behalf. Bell declined a request for comment.
CMAC did not respond to requests for comment.
But Ellis, Marouf’s lawyer, said the center’s work was valuable and contributed greatly to the litigation.
Counsel said that “it is abundantly clear from the CMAC’s statement and the CRTC’s decision that, were it not for the efforts of the CMAC, indigenous, racial and disabled women’s groups would not be involved in the CRTC policy rewrite proceeding under the Accessible Canada Act.” and his points affirming the intersectionality of oppression”.
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Peter Julian, an NDP heritage critic, is calling on Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and CRTC officials to appear before the House of Commons Heritage Committee when Parliament returns to discuss the apparent lack of “due diligence” before the CMAC payment.
“Obviously, there was no check at all, and this raises a lot of troubling questions,” he said.
John Nather, a conservative Canadian heritage critic, also said the minister should answer the committee’s questions. “We consider it necessary that the minister give answers to the committee and explain how this was allowed.”
Conservative MP Melissa Lanzman said she would submit a petition from her constituents to the House of Commons asking for a public inquiry. She said the independent body should look into all of CMAC’s historical sources of funding.
She criticized Rodriguez for not talking about the tweets. “The worst thing about it is the silence,” she said.
Rodriguez declined to comment.
Conservative MP Dan Albas, a member of the House of Commons finance committee, said the government needed to look into all CMAC funding.
“There’s nothing on the radio about what they’re going to do to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
© 2022 Canadian Press