The wrath of Kenney

By Jon Roe

Federal immigration minister, and Calgary Southeast MP, Jason Kenney has made it clear that the government won’t be renewing the funding for a Canadian-Arab group after the organization’s president called Kenney, along with other politicians, “professional whores” for their support of Israel.

This move is nothing but childish nonsense. The government should not be in the business of handing out and withdrawing funding based on whether or not they personally agree with the individuals requesting it. If funding is only given out to those the government gets along with, then that is a serious problem. Canadian Arab Federation president Khaled Mouammar may have called Kenney a whore, but if the group is doing legitimate work, then personal opinions and sentiments should not be a factor in the government’s relationship with the group.

The funding in question is used for a language instruction for newcomers program the group puts on in Toronto, which largely benefits recently landed Chinese immigrants, according to CAF executive director Mohamed Boudjenane.

Withdrawing the funding for such a beneficial program seems even more ridiculous as Kenney recently espoused the necessity for immigrants to integrate into society to the Calgary Herald’s editorial board. By removing a program that helps fulfill one of his own mandates, Kenney is basically admitting this is about personal animosity between himself and the group’s president. The group was told, according to the Ottawa Citizen, that the funding for their learning program “would not be renewed because of the objectionable nature of public statements made by CAF members.”

Though Kenney has tried to splash allegations of association with terrorists on the group, including alleging that they promote hatred and anti-Semitism, his arguments don’t seem to hold a lot of water. Mouammar supports Hamas and Hezbollah and his support of those organizations has been clear since he became president. The CAF released a policy paper in 2006 calling the two groups legitimate, pointing to their popular support. Kenney having a problem with this now seems like an unlikely cause for the withdrawal of the funds.

Besides, though Hamas and Hezbollah both engage in questionable and dangerous activities and have extremist members, their goals aren’t as evil as Kenney, the Conservative government and much of the Western world wants them to appear. A large majority of Hamas’ funding goes to support social services in one of the worst poverty-stricken areas in the world– the Gaza Strip. Withdrawing funds from groups that ideologically support Hamas and Hezbollah effectively silences criticism of Canadian foreign policy when there are legitimate questions to be asked about whether engagement and dialogue might help dissolve the long-standing issue in Israel.

The terrorist allegations are an easy way for Kenney to distract from the fact that this is about hurt feelings more than anything else.

Kenney is forging ahead with what could be a very dangerous decision for other non-profit organizations in the future. If agreeing with the Canadian government and not offending its ministers is the requirement for receiving federal funding, heads of all federally-funded non-profit organizations may want to think twice before speaking out in the future– a ridiculous expectation in a democratic nation.

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