The National Council of Canadian Muslims abruptly cancelled a meeting Monday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accusing his government of failing to protect Palestinians or take “tangible action” against hate crimes.
“We no longer think it’s productive to speak with this prime minister,” chief executive Stephen Brown told a news conference.
“There’s nothing new that we could say. We’ve said it all before.”
Trudeau did not address the cancellation directly Monday before question period, confining his comments to the national day of action against Islamophobia. His office later said it had “nothing to add.”
Brown had been scheduled to meet with Trudeau to touch base on fighting anti-Muslim hate, but said he pulled out because the prime minister has so far neglected to follow through on promises he made to the Muslim community in the 2015 election campaign that brought him to power.
Those commitments included doing more to prosecute hate crimes and to adequately fund programs meant to prevent such acts, such as helping to pay for security cameras at religious sites.
“It has become clear that we seem to only get a sliver of policy reform when our lives, or our safety, is destroyed,” Brown said. “Our government has failed to move on substantive hate-crime legislation.”
He said he sees no evidence Ottawa is willing to pressure Israel to ease its bombardment of the Gaza Strip and Hamas, whose brutal attack on Israel last October has provoked a massive military response.
“We’re interested in the government taking real tangible action to reduce Islamophobia in this country (and) taking real tangible action to stop the hostilities in the Middle East,” Brown said.
He noted Canada broke with many of its allies last week when it refused to call on Israel to follow the orders set out by the International Court of Justice aimed at preventing Palestinian genocide.
Ottawa has so far said it supports the court but not necessarily the premise of the case brought by South Africa against Israel.
Trudeau has refused to say whether that means he rejected the case, nor whether Ottawa will respect whatever ruling the court makes. Brown said this shows the federal Liberals only support justice for some groups of people, instead of advocating for multilateral institutions.
“They’ve compromised the integrity of the international rules-based order and the ICJ, by challenging the premise of the case.”
Trudeau was ushered into power in 2015 in part on a pledge to end an especially divisive period in federal politics and bring a more humanitarian approach to governing.
That year’s election campaign coincided with an surge of migration in Europe punctuated by the tragic death of two-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey and helped to crystallize public dismay over the plight of refugees from Syria.
Many Muslims named their children after Trudeau because of his promise to uphold equality and tolerance, Brown said.
“That great promise now feels broken and perhaps beyond repair.”
The group is also worried about Ottawa’s decision to suspend funding for a UN agency that supports Palestinians, in response to allegations agency staff played a role in the Hamas attack.
Ottawa has ordered a temporary pause on “any additional funding” for the agency, known as UNWRA, which the Liberals recently described as indispensable in keeping Palestinians alive.
The move followed a similar decision in Washington after the agency’s director fired staff members that were suspected of being involved in the attack, without sharing what role they may have played.
Brown said it’s vital that somebody deliver life-saving aid to Palestinians in Gaza and support those facing an uptick of violence in the West Bank.
Canada will continue to get funding to Palestinians through other outlets such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and the Humanitarian Coalition group of Canadian charities, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Monday.
“Our levels of support for the Palestinian civilians will not be diminished by this,” Hussen said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024.