House of Commons photo

Track Irwin

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is justice.

Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Bahá’i Community in Iran February 26th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the global day of action for the Education is Not a Crime campaign to dramatize the painful reality that education is a crime for the Bahá’i community in Iran, a case study of the persecution and prosecution of the Bahá’i, Iran's largest religious minority, who are treated as non-citizens devoid of fundamental rights, including being arrested for their beliefs at an alarming pace; violent attacks on the Bahá’i continuing to go unpunished amidst a culture of impunity; state-sanctioned incitement to hatred of the Bahá’i dramatically increasing, by tenfold in 2014 alone; and seven Bahá’i leaders continuing to suffer arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and detention, in which the trial of the seven is a trial of the Bahá’i community as a whole.

The Iranian government has made being a Baha'i a crime, but we can change that. We can give voice to their rights. We can tell the Iranian government, as Bishop Tutu put it, that banning the Bahá’i is hurting Iran and the Iranian people. As former Iranian Canadian political prisoner Maziar Bahari put it, and the slogan for this global campaign reads, we can light a candle on their behalf.

Anti-Semitism February 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in the opinion of the House:

a) there has been, in the words of the Joint Statement issued following the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on January 22, 2015, “an alarming increase in Antisemitism worldwide,” including the firebombing of synagogues and community centres, the vandalizing of Jewish memorials and cemeteries, incendiary calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, and anti-Jewish terror;

b) this global anti-Semitism constitutes not only a threat to Jews but an assault on our shared democratic values and our common humanity;

Therefore the House:

a) declares its categorical condemnation of anti-Semitism;

b) reaffirms the importance of the Ottawa Protocol on Combating anti-Semitism as a model for domestic and international implementation;

c) reaffirms, in the words of the Ottawa Protocol, that, “Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium - let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction - is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest;”

And the House further calls upon the government to:

a) continue advancing the combating of anti-Semitism as a domestic and international priority;

b) expand engagement with civil society, community groups, educators, and other levels of government to combat anti-Semitism and to promote respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, because of the constraints of time, I offer my hon. colleague the opportunity to elaborate on any other point of reference within the Ottawa protocol, if he wishes. He quoted in particular with respect to universities. However, there are other paragraphs there that call upon parliamentarians to act, and I was wondering if he might like to reference one or more of those.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, what unnerved people today in Montreal and, as I said, adjacent to my riding and partly in my riding, was not only the anti-Semitic vandalism involved, but also the threat involved. That is the thing that has disturbed and unnerved people, the nature of the hateful threat.

That is something that we have been discussing here this evening and it has to be part of a preventive approach, because education about anti-Semitism, its history, its dangers, and the fact that while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews, is something that if we internalize those understandings and act upon then, then it will resonate for the welfare of not only the Jews but also the human condition as a whole.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I want to commend my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador for his informed and inspiring remarks. I appreciate his reference to Jack Marshall, who was a great colleague and great contributor to Canada, and also for his reference to the anti-Semitic vandalism and threats in Montreal today. It may not be known to the members in this House that the incident actually occurred on Côte-St-Luc Road, which borders my riding. I have heard many concerned responses from my constituents since this occurred earlier today.

In particular, I am pleased that the member from Newfoundland and Labrador has kindly offered me an opportunity to split the time with him and has invited me to comment on the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, a central instrument for the purposes of engaging in countering anti-Semitism domestically and internationally. I am pleased to do so, because many colleagues this evening have referenced the protocol. Others have also spoken about the importance of education in combatting anti-Semitism. They both converge with regard to the Ottawa protocol as an educational, policy-making, action-oriented instrument. I just would like to excerpt from it, because I think this could be part of our learning experience this evening.

The Minister of Finance earlier asked, why anti-Semitism? In fact, the Ottawa protocol makes some reference to it. It says:

We are appalled by the resurgence of the classic anti-Jewish libels, including:

The Blood Libel (that Jews use the blood of children for ritual sacrifice)

The Jews as “Poisoners of the Wells”--responsible for all evils in the world

The myth of the “new Protocols of the Elders of Zion”--the tsarist forgery that proclaimed an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination--and accuses the Jews of controlling government, the economy, media and public institutions.

The double entendre of denying the Holocaust [on the one hand]...and the nazification of the Jew[s][on the other].

Finally, the Ottawa protocol set forth a working definition for anti-Semitism. It drew on the European Union monitoring centre, now the fundamental rights agency, working definition. For some reason, it has dropped it, but because its definition is referenced in so many educational programs and in parliamentary initiatives, I am going to now reaffirm the definition, as put forth in the Ottawa protocol. I do that in two respects, both in its reference to the definition of traditional “anti-Semitism” and of the new anti-Semitism. It speaks of:

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

I will just give two examples. It gives about seven.

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective—such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth [again] about a world Jewish conspiracy, or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

It goes on to a matter of particular importance, and that is examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel. Here it gives specific and express examples:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

I was reminded, on Martin Luther King Day, that Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that the denial to the Jewish people of the right to self-determination, a right that we affirm for all nations of the globe, including African nations, is in fact, simply put, anti-Semitism.

Another example it gives is the following:

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Let us be clear. Israel, like any other state, is responsible for any violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Jewish people are not privileged with respect to equality before the law because of the historical Jewish suffering or that of the Holocaust. The promise is not that anyone would claim that Israel be above the law, but rather that Israel is being systematically denied equality before the law as an example set forth this evening, particularly in the international arena. It is not that human rights standards are being applied to Israel, but that these standards are not being applied equally to everyone else. It is not that Israel must respect human rights, which she must, but that the rights of Israel deserve not more but equal respect.

Another example here is the notion of using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism, including claims of Jews killing Jesus and the like, to characterize Israel or Israelis, or drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, or holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel. But clearly as it states in the protocol, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Let me close with a particular statement and declaration that I take responsibility for authoring as part of the Ottawa protocol, which says:

Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium— let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction—is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.

As the Ottawa protocol concludes with a call to parliamentarians in particular to adopt the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism, which no longer appears to be in place, and to anchor its enforcement in existing law, I call on all members here to reference the Ottawa Protocol to Combat Antisemitism as the framing reference for the definition of anti-Semitism old and new, and to make that the template for our understanding of anti-Semitism, for our policy-making in that regard, and for our actions domestically and internationally.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, that was a disturbing experience. We had parliamentarians from different European countries. Most of the parliamentarians on the panel that I chaired were non-Jews, but they all spoke of their sense of alarm at the growing incidence of anti-Semitism that they were witnessing not only in their countries but even, as my colleague will recall, in their parliaments.

This was a disturbing phenomenon. I have not made reference to it this evening, but it was something to which they spoke. It goes back to the importance that was mentioned about the need for education, and the need for that education applies with regard to parliamentary assemblies as well.

I hope we will all begin to learn more about this hateful phenomenon, and in learning more about it be able to learn how to more effectively combat it.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, we had, I believe, members from all parties and all sides working together to establish the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. The Minister for Multiculturalism played an important role, which reference was made earlier. From that we both went to London for the London Conference Against Anti-Semitism in 2009. The minister was there. He played a central role in the 2010 Ottawa Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism.

In both London and Ottawa, we adopted important declarations and protocols, and the minister referred to them this evening.

I will conclude by saying that I take this to be a shared objective and a shared engagement by members of all parties. The time has come to sound the alarm about this globalizing hatred, which is the canary in the mine shaft of global evil.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, one might ask why in fact we have a take-note debate on anti-Semitism. What about the other types of racism and discrimination that we must be concerned about, as the member for Ottawa Centre mentioned?

There are certain features that do make anti-Semitism unique.

Number one, it is the oldest and most enduring of hatreds, and is in fact the most lethal in that regard.

Second, it is the one form of racism that has a global dimension, such that we find it even in countries without Jews. I just read that in Yemen, where there are only some 55 Jews left, the militant Houthis, who are controlling Yemen, say that their primary foreign policy objective is to target Jews.

The third is that the species of racism known as anti-Semitism is characterized by what I mentioned: state-sanctioned and state-orchestrated incitement to hate, even to genocide.

Fourth, no other form of racism is laundered under universal public values, as I mentioned.

Number five, there is a dramatic global escalation in anti-Semitic attacks on Jews, Jewish property, and Jewish institutions. This pandemic of hatred has rendered the largest incidence of attacks on Jews ever, be it in France, the United Kingdom, or across Europe.

The last point is that we are witnessing a resurgence of the classical libels with respect to Jews. I will not go into it, but there are some six historical libels, such as the particular libel with regard to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, all of which have been resurrected again in a global configuration. No other people and, I would say, not other state is the object of such a litany of libels.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I agree with my colleague that education is crucial. Someone who is a hero to all of us, Nelson Mandela, referred to education as a transformative change agent in the struggle against racism. I think education is crucial, and the Ottawa Protocol to Combat Antisemitism makes express reference to the importance of education, along with other recommendations, as the Minister for Multiculturalism pointed out. I would recommend to this House that we act upon those recommendations in the Ottawa Protocol to Combat Antisemitism and make that our priority in our relationships with other countries in that regard.

Rise in anti-Semitism February 24th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I do think that we should raise it. In fact, if I had had more time, I would have shared something in my own remarks about this idea.

One of the more disturbing indicators of the old-new anti-Semitism is the laundering or masking of that anti-Semitism under universal public values—in other words, under the protective cover of the United Nations, under the authority of international law, under the culture of human rights and the struggle against racism, which all reflect and represent values held dearly by members in the House.

For example, with regard to the protective cover of the United Nations, in December the UN General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions of condemnation against one member state of the international community. It happened to be Israel. There were four resolutions of condemnation against the rest of the world combined. It was the singling out of one member state for differential discriminatory indictment.

With regard to invoking the authority of international law, in the month of December, the state parties to the Geneva Convention, the protective international humanitarian law, has put only one state in the docket, and this for the third time, in the last 50 years. That state, for all three times in the last 50 years, happened to be Israel. Rwanda and Darfur did not make a difference. The only state ever brought before the Geneva Convention was Israel.

The third example was what my colleague referred to in terms of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the protector of human rights and something that we subscribe to. Some 50% of all its resolutions are condemnatory of one state. Some 50% of its special sessions are condemnatory of one state.

I will conclude by saying that I spoke at and appeared before the UN Human Rights Council. I can tell members that when we look the agenda items for every meeting of that UN Human Rights Council, agenda item 7 is human rights violations by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and agenda item 8 is human rights violations in the rest of the world.