CAF News Release: Response to Mr. Jason Kenney, M.P.

The following News Release by the Canadian Arab Federation is in response to Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney’s threats to cut funding to newcomer service agencies served by the CAF.

By these latest actions, Mr. Kenney shows that his government will use the threat of funding cuts to silence any voices it deems dissenting, especially those that dare to be critical of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, its egregious human rights violations, and its illegal occupation of Arab lands.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 19, 2009

Response to Mr. Jason Kenney, M.P.

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) finds it deeply regrettable that Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, has threatened to cut funding to newcomer service agencies served by the CAF and has used the remarks made by CAF’s president, Khaled Mouammar while Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza, as an excuse to malign and intimidate Arab and Muslim communities who have suffered and continue to suffer from marginalization, threats and the muzzling of their voices.

We note with disappointment that this most recent attack on the CAF is part of a campaign waged by Mr. Kenney who has targeted and systematically vilified the CAF. In January 2008, Mr. Kenney smeared and stereotyped the Arab community during one of his exchanges with a Liberal MP in the House of Commons, and he described CAF as a racist organization in a speech in Bucharest Romania in June 2007. Mr. Kenney’s most recent attack on CAF came just 3 days ago at an anti-Semitism conference in London, England where he labeled the CAF and Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) as groups that promote anti-Semitism. This characterization is slanderous and untrue on a number of levels. The CAF works with many Jewish anti-Zionist groups on a variety of projects. Furthermore, Arabs are a Semitic people, so Mr. Kenney’s unfounded allegations and intimidating threats against the CAF misrepresent the organization and our community and work to inflame and divide Canadians. .

Since 1992, CAF’s settlement programs have demonstrated a solid record of success that is available for any interested party to examine and review. These programs are thoroughly audited and have been praised for the efficiency and dedication with which they are implemented. Threatening to cut funding for these programs is a form of indiscriminate and collective punishment upon people who require these services. We wonder what motivated the Minister to issue this threat. If it stems from a disagreement with our position on certain political issues, we strongly believe that this constitutes an infringement on our freedoms and rights as guaranteed by the Charter. We have consistently sought to empower our community to speak its mind and participate fully, openly and unabashedly in the Canadian democratic process. Mr. Kenney’s comments serve to set this endeavour back. Is the muting of our voices is now a condition for receiving funding and support from our government? This is a matter of grave concern to all agencies providing language and settlement services to immigrants and newcomers.

Mr. Kenney’s comments, whether intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuate negative sentiments towards Arab and Muslim Canadians. These come directly after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report stating that “Canada should strengthen its domestic violence laws and stop religious discrimination against Muslims…and do more to improve the welfare of its Aboriginal citizens”.

We call upon the Harper government to adopt a zero tolerance approach to expressions of Islamophobia and Arabophobia (the latter of which is a form of anti-Semitism), in the public arena. The government must recognize Islamophobia and Arabophobia for what they are, pernicious evils that must be exposed, confronted and repudiated whenever and where ever they appear, evils so profound that they are ultimately a threat to us all.

The CAF will continue to provide its services to all Canadians and expects that funds will be unchanged for programs that we have implemented with excellence. The CAF will not be intimidated into silence and will defend the rights and freedoms of our communities as protected under the Charter. We will continue to combat racism and uphold the rights of racialized groups and human rights in Canada and abroad, as well as to vigorously expose the serious human rights violations perpetuated by Israel against the Palestinian people and its illegal occupation of Arab lands.

For more information, please contact:

Mohamed Boudjenane
CAF Executive Director
416-493-8635 x 23  ed@caf.ca

__________________________________________________
www.caf.ca

Established in 1967, the Canadian Arab Federation is a national, non-partisan, non profit and membership-based organization.  CAF represents Canadian Arabs on issues relating to public policy.

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