Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, is demanding accountability: How could someone else have let his government pair up with a guy who spews noxious, hateful views on Twitter for an anti-racism project? What will someone else do to make it better? And how can someone else ensure that this sort of thing never happens again?
Last year, a group called the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) received a grant of $133,800 from the Department of Canadian Heritage to develop an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting. Laith Marouf, a senior consultant with CMAC, was spearheading the project according to a news release from April, though he still found time to tweet about “loud mouthed bags of human feces aka the Jewish White Supremacists,” and why they deserve “a bullet to the head.” In other tweets, Mr. Marouf also called former justice minister Irwin Cotler the “Grand Wizard of Zionism” and former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell a “Jamaican house-slave.”
A lawyer acting for Mr. Marouf told CBC that while his client’s tweets target “Jewish White Supremacists,” the consultant does not harbour any animus toward Jews in general – which is true only if you ignore tweets such as the one where Mr. Marouf explained why he “stopped sharing the works of Jewish White people, even if anti-Zionist/anti-Imperialist.” Perhaps he’s one of those “do as I say, not as I do” diversity and inclusion lecturers.
Canadian tech blogger Mark Goldberg had been writing about Mr. Marouf’s zany interpretation of anti-racist activism for at least a year, but it wasn’t until his observations were amplified by Quillette editor and former National Post columnist Jonathan Kay that thousands of Canadians became aware of the person the Canadian government had contracted to teach others about prejudice. Yet it still took more than a week – and one false start with a vague statement from Mr. Hussen about his ministry looking to “rectify” the matter – before the government announced that CMAC’s funding would be cut and its project suspended.
In that announcement, Mr. Hussen was adamant that there would be accountability: Not from his ministry or from Canadian Heritage to explain how they vet grant recipients and/or what they will do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again, but from CMAC, “to explain 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.”
“We look forward to a proper response on their next steps and clear accountability regarding this matter,” Mr. Hussen’s statement concluded, affirming that with this government, the buck stops elsewhere. “I want to assure Canadians that our government has and will continue to fight anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms.”
By this government’s telling, then, the feeble Ministry of Heritage – with its billion-dollar budget and more than 1,800 employees – was hoodwinked by an organization harbouring an antisemite right there on its public list of consultants. Maybe Google was down for the many months Mr. Marouf was working with the Heritage department, thus preventing anyone from searching his name. Or maybe they just thought Mr. Marouf’s Twitter persona was an elaborate bit because no anti-racism lecturer with any knowledge of right-wing white supremacy would seriously use the phrase “Jewish White Supremacists,” since bona fide white supremacists obviously do not consider Jewish people to be white.
For a government that has made self-flagellation a matter of routine – that declared itself complicit in Indigenous genocide and rarely shies away from an opportunity to apologize for a past injustice – its cabinet ministers seem awfully shy to take responsibility now. Perhaps that’s because this is not something that can be blamed on Canada generally, but on this government specifically – a government that accidentally gave an apparent frothing antisemite permission to lecture Canadian broadcasters on racism.
The expectations for this government are not high. A reasonable response from Mr. Hussen would be for him to come out and explain that the Heritage Ministry did not do its due diligence in this case, but that it is developing specific protocols, which will soon be publicly disclosed, to vet grant recipients. But such a response could only be expected of a government actually interested in accountability. This government is only keen on the appearance thereof – that and foisting the blame on an organization that apparently hoodwinked an entire ministry.
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