(JNS) The Canadian government has suspended funding to an anti-racism advocacy group after it learned that a senior consultant and speaker for the group has a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist comments, along with numerous related social-media posts.
The Community Media Advocacy Centre, which sought to confront “barriers experienced by Racialized Canadians (including BIPOC, Black, Indigenous and People of Color) in media access, representation and employment-related practices,” had received more than $133,000 from the governmental agency Canadian Heritage, which funds arts, culture and heritage programs throughout the country.
The grant to CMAC to provide media training was a part of the agency’s Anti-Racism Action Program, which the government sees as an important tool to combat racism and remove barriers to employment, justice and social participation among religious minorities, indigenous peoples and radicalized communities.
However, CMAC’s own senior consultant, Laith Marouf, has a history of hate-filled social-media posts, including one in which he wrote: “I have a motto: Life is too short for shoes with laces or for entertaining Jewish white supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head.”
It isn’t just Jews or Israel that Marouf has issues with. He also took aim at French Canadians, calling them “French frogs,” and even posted a photo of himself on social media at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., raising his middle finger with the words “ … telling him what I think of his sh***y colony.”
The Canadian government and local Jewish organizations were made aware of Marouf’s social-media posting late last week after they were shared by two individuals: a Canadian writer and podcaster named Jonathan Kay, and a telecommunication consultant named Mark Goldberg. The latter has been posting about Marouf since last year after finding that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had paid CMAC nearly $17,000.
“We have provided notice to the Community Media Advocacy Centre that their funding has been cut and their project has been suspended,” Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, said in a statement, calling Marouf’s comments “reprehensible and vile.”
“We call on the CMAC—an organization claiming to fight racism and hate in Canada—to answer how they came to hire Laith Marouf and how they plan on rectifying the situation, given the nature of his anti-Semitic and xenophobic statements,” he continued. “We look forward to a proper response on the next steps and clear accountability regarding this matter.”
‘The vetting process is completely inadequate’
The decision to end funding for CMAC followed local media coverage of the issues, pressure from local politicians and discussions with the Jewish community.
Among the Jewish leaders who spoke with Hussen was Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
He told JNS, “Conversations with the government were direct, respectful and productive, and we are happy that our concerns were heard and that they yielded the desired results: Funding for CMAC has been cut, the program suspended, and an investigation is underway to explain how Heritage came to fund an organization associated with someone so publicly and eminently unqualified.”
This is not the first time that Canadian Heritage has come under fire for a program it funded.
As Koffler Fogel pointed out, earlier this summer, the federal agency “provided funding to the Muslim Association of Canada, which featured speakers at their annual conference who had proselytized misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ2+, anti-Semitic, and often violent beliefs; in short, views that are antithetical to Canadian values.”
According to Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, this “whole fiasco reveals a systematic problem in Heritage Canada grants”—one that “goes well beyond Marouf.”
“The vetting process is completely inadequate,” he told JNS, pointing out that “Marouf has a long history as a consultant with CMAC, and no one seems to have taken into account [his] flagrantly anti-Semitic and racist behavior on social media before awarding the contract.”
Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the director of policy for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, agrees, saying “the Canadian government committed an egregious error by funding an organization and its ‘anti-racism’ project whose senior consultant repeatedly posted anti-Semitic tweets. … We expect Canadian Heritage and its leadership to explain where they went wrong and how they will ensure organizations and their members that promote anti-Semitic views will not receive government funding in the future.”
Rotrand suggested that CMAC, which has already been paid for three of six workshops, be forced to reimburse the government for them. He also believes that the vetting process for future allocations should use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.
Such a move, said Rotrand, “would be consistent with the recent recommendations of the House [of Commons of Canada] Standing Committee on Public Security and National Security which recently noted that anti-Zionism is a driver of global anti-Semitism.”