18 things worth remembering about Brian Mulroney’s support for Canadian Jews and Israel

Brian Mulroney Ray Wolfe
Brian Mulroney (right) greeting Canadian Jewish leader Ray Wolfe, a grocery magnate and philanthropist, also a founder of The Canadian Jewish News. (Courtesy Elizabeth Wolfe and the Ontario Jewish Archives.)

Brian Mulroney didn’t meet a Jew until he left his home in Quebec to go to boarding school. Yet despite this, the Canadian prime minister, who died on Feb. 29, made fighting antisemitism and supporting Jews—and Israel—priorities during his lengthy political career.

Mulroney, 84, died after a fall in the bathroom of his home in Palm Beach, Florida, friends say. He had recently been treated for prostate cancer. Mulroney served as prime minister for nine years, from 1984 to 1993. He resigned due to growing separatist sentiments in Quebec, a recession and record-low popular support.

However, Jewish leaders and experts say Mulroney’s support for Jews in and out of office was remarkable. His dedication included hiring a succession of Jewish political advisors to be his chiefs of staff; appointing Norman Spector as the first Jewish ambassador to represent Canada in Israel; establishing a public inquiry to investigate how Nazi war criminals were allowed into Canada after the Holocaust; and welcoming Chaim Herzog, then the president of Israel, as the first leader of the Jewish State to address Parliament, in 1989.

On today’s edition of The CJN Daily, we explore why Canada’s 18th prime minister felt moved to fight what he called “a noxious social cancer” of antisemitism, even to his last days. We hear from philanthropist Charles Bronfman; Irwin Cotler, the former special envoy on combatting antisemitism; political panelist for The CJN Daily Stephen Adler; and Don Abelson, the founding director of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government in Nova Scotia.

What we talked about:

  • Read professors Don Abelson and Monda Halpern’s scholarly paper about Brian Mulroney and the Jews, “On the Right Side of History”
  • Read Ron Csillag’s article about Brian Mulroney’s legacy, in The CJN
  • Watch Mulroney’s last public speech, to the World Jewish Congress in New York, from Nov. 2023 
  • Why criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitism, Mulroney said: in The CJN archives


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here. Hear why The CJN is important to me.