Court upholds withdrawal of Arab group’s funding

Jason Kenney

The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed the Canadian Arab Federation’s (CAF) effort to reverse the federal government’s decision to withdraw funding for the group because of the government’s contention the group is anti-Semitic.

Last year, a Federal Court judge upheld a 2009 assessment by then-minister of citizenship and immigration Jason Kenney, who decided to withdraw more than $1 million a year in federal government funding for the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program because the government said the CAF promoted anti-Semitism and supported terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

When the CAF sought to renew its funding in 2009 to be part of the government’s English-language training program for people new to the country, Kenney rejected the group’s request in a letter in which he said that “serious concerns have risen with respect to certain public statements that have been made by yourself, or other officials of the CAF.

“These statements have included the promotion of hatred, anti-Semitism and support for the banned terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah… [this] raises serious questions about the integrity of your organization and has undermined the government’s confidence in the CAF as an appropriate partner for the delivery of settlement services to newcomers.”

The 2014 Federal Court decision cited examples Kenney raised in making his decision:

• a flyer circulated by then-CAF president Kaled Mouammar, attacking former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae because of his wife’s involvement in the Jewish community;

• CAF-organized rallies supporting Hamas and Hezbollah that equated Israelis to Nazis and included a sign threatening to kill a Jewish child;

• the CAF’s participation in a Cairo conference attended by delegates from Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations;

• Internet links to Hamas websites that showed Hamas operatives training;

• honouring Zafar Bangash, who referred to Canadians as infidels; and

• sponsoring an essay contest on the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine, which the minister took as an allegation that Jewish people were engaged in genocide and therefore made the contest anti-Semitic.

The CAF appealed to the Federal Court to review the minister’s decision to cease funding, arguing it was owed a duty of procedural fairness, that the minister was biased, that the judgment hindered the group’s right to free expression, and that Kenney’s decision was unreasonable.

But in the latest decision, released late last month, the Federal Court of Appeals dismissed the group’s case and agreed with Kenney’s original assessment that he had grounds to withdraw funding.

Richard Marceau, general counsel for the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs, praised the decision. 

“We believe the Federal Court of Appeal made the right decision. CAF is known as spewing hate and it is a toxic organization and the minister was right to discontinue the relationship that they had with the LINC program. We believe that the court made the decision and the fact that it was upheld in a very strongly worded decision shows that CAF’s mask has fallen. We know who they are, and now it has the confirmation by an independent judiciary of what kind of organization it is and what they stand for,” Marceau said.

“I know that even people who tended to be self-described pro-Palestinian felt very uncomfortable with the kind of rhetoric coming out from the CAF. They took some distance from them,” Marceau added. 

“They are reaping what they sowed. Canada does not stand for hate. Canada does not stand for anti-Semitism and whoever spews that kind of toxicity will pay the price eventually and that’s what we’ve seen happen to CAF.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said the ruling “sends a clear message to individuals and organizations across Canada that those who promote racism and anti-Semitism, or excuse terrorism and violence, should no longer receive any official recognition or subsidies from government bodies.”

Attempts to reach a CAF representative for comment were unsuccessful. The group’s website and Facebook page haven’t been updated since last year, and many of the website’s links are broken.