NDP MP Niki Ashton stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing anti-Semitism concerns ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

NDP MP Niki Ashton stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, April 26, 2018. Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing anti-Semitism concerns ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Jewish groups raise anti-Semitism concerns ahead of NDP MP’s chat with Corbyn

Corbyn was suspended after he said anti-Semitism in his party had been ‘dramatically overstated’

Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing concerns about anti-Semitism ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The planned livestream talk risks pulling New Democrats in a direction “antithetical” to Canadian values, said Shimon Fogel, head of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in a joint statement with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“Jeremy Corbyn is toxic,” Fogel said, accusing a “small group” of New Democrats of undermining party leadership.

“It is staggering that given the litany of catastrophic, consequential issues before us, including the pandemic, that this is where some in the NDP want to spend the party’s capital.”

The British Labour party has been grappling with allegations that anti-Semitism was allowed to fester under Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel who led the party for almost five years from 2015.

The Labour party suspended Corbyn in October after he said the problem of anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated” for political reasons. He was readmitted as a party member in November after walking back those comments, but remains an Independent MP after his successor Sir Keir Starmer refused to let him back into the fold.

Ashton has been promoting on social media their March 20 chat, an online fundraiser for Progressive International. The organization, which is hosting the event, was launched in 2018 by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Canadian author Naomi Klein and other progressive politicians and activists.

“This moment is all about building international solidarity,” Ashton said in a Twitter thread Tuesday.

“Here in Canada and around the world, we must find a way to work with movements and activists who share our values and put forward an unapologetically bold vision for our collective future.”

Ashton did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The event will focus on issues that range from growing inequality to the rise of the far right and the threat of climate change.

The NDP said in an email the party and its leader, Jagmeet Singh, are committed to fighting anti-Semitism amid a troubling rise in hateful ideologies.

“New Democrats have been working with organizations to dismantle hate and alt-right groups and proposing solutions to fight against online hate to keep communities safe,” the party said Wednesday.

“Jagmeet and New Democrats are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and will continue to push the Liberals to take more concrete actions, like attacking online hate, to combat it.”

In October, a report from the U.K. Equality and Human Rights Commission found “serious failings in leadership” and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints under Corbyn’s tenure, concluding that the Labour party was responsible for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”

“Our analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.”

The report was cited Tuesday by Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute, which shares links with the New Democrats, when he criticized the event.

“This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders,” Smith said of Corbyn in a Twitter post Tuesday.

Smith linked to a post from former NDP MP Svend Robinson, who said he would be joining Ashton and Corbyn for the event.

Richard Marceau, general counsel for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, called the decision to feature Corbyn at a Progressive International fundraiser “mind-boggling.”

“To me it betrays true progressive values. Those people would never, ever invite people who have been condemned for anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, homophobia, etc. And yet Niki Ashton is lending her name to a person who is peddling anti-Semitic tropes,” said Marceau, a former Bloc Québécois MP, in an interview.

“This is not, I believe, the progressive movement that Canada needs or wants.”

Progressive International did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

—With a file from The Associated Press

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Pub patio in Victoria reopens with widely spaced tables, June 2020. Restaurants and pubs across are restricted to take-out and patio service only until May 25 at the earliest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Don’t travel outside your region, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

The former C&C Wood Products mill will begin producing products again later this month, under new ownership. (Observer file photo)
Williams Lake-owned company to restart production at bankrupt specialty mill in Quesnel

President of Kandola Forest Products says he expects to fill 90 full-time jobs by end of year

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Most Read