Farber aids pro-Roma group against Kenney, Haifa U
October 10, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
TORONTO - A coalition of anti-Israel and pro-Roma activists, the latter with connections to failed Liberal political candidate Bernie Farber, has aligned itself against Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.
Farber, former CEO of the now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress, has recently taken up the cause of the Roma community. To that end, he has written articles claiming that Bill C-31: Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act unduly targeted the Roma community.
Farber has equated Kenney’s changes to immigration legislation to Canada’s exclusion of European Jews who sought refuge from the Holocaust. According to a Jewish Tribune story July 6, two members of the Toronto Board of Rabbis confirmed, at that time, that Farber had contacted them before the letter by the board was sent in June to Kenney.
Farber’s efforts for the Roma community are greatly appreciated by the only Roma organization in Canada.
He has “been amazing,” said Gina Csányi-Robah, executive director, Roma Community Centre. “He’s helped us a lot.”
The latest salvo against Kenney concerns an honourary degree that the University of Haifa will bestow on Kenney next month. The Roma Community Centre has written three letters asking the institution to renege.
Although Csányi-Robah said Farber did not help the centre write their letters, portions of the letters are in line with Farber’s published positions about Kenney.
The centre’s letters also target Sun News Network host Ezra Levant for comments he made about the Roma on one of his TV programs, and link those comments attributed to Kenney regarding Roma refugees. Levant is a member of the tribute committee for the University of Haifa’s Mount Carmel Dinner at which Kenney will be honoured in Toronto on Nov. 4.
However, Csányi-Robah has revealed that Farber has helped the Roma Community Centre to compile a dossier that they will use to lodge a criminal complaint against Levant.
Csányi-Robah, said that Farber “has been very supportive in helping us respond to a lot of negative media [and] a lot of racist remarks being made in the media about us. He’s helped us prepare a package and we’re now ready to basically submit our package [to the police] to charge Ezra Levant with hate propaganda.”
Regarding Kenney, Csányi-Robah said, “for the Roma Community Centre, the big part that we’re the most upset about is the fact that he’s really targeted the Roma community and he’s been such a strong supporter of the Jewish community and really raising awareness about the Holocaust but he’s willfully and blindly ignoring all of the conditions that are existing in Hungary right now towards the Roma community that is really history repeating itself....
“It’s quite unfair that [Kenney] continues to want to take a strong stance against the Holocaust but the people that were also victims of the Holocaust [the Roma] he seems to want to reject them and in fact disempower [sic] us and further marginalize us and in fact criminalize us throughout Canada by calling us bogus refugees.”
Csányi-Robah has used Holocaust references in other contexts in the past. In January 2011 she was a featured speaker at a Never Again for Anyone event whose sponsors included the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Other speakers at the event included Hajo Meyer, author of the book, The End of Judaism; Alan Sears, Faculty for Palestine; and Dawud Assad, an anti-Israel activist.
Csányi-Robah, via the Roma Community Centre, belongs to a local committee that has created an online petition opposing the University of Haifa’s honouring of Kenney. To Csányi-Robah’s knowledge, Farber is not on the committee, whose members she characterized as “many people that have been upset with Jason Kenney for a long time” including representatives from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, No One Is Illegal and Educators for Peace and Justice, she said.
The No One Is Illegal group is calling on its website for a protest outside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel while Kenney is conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa). The list of protest organizers includes a number of anti-Israel agitators.
Despite the pressure, the University of Haifa has affirmed that it will not back down.
Dr. Arnie Aberman, tribute committee chair for the Canadian Friends of Haifa University, said neither his organization nor the University of Haifa would take a position, or comment, on Canadian immigration policies. They are, he said, recognizing Kenney “for his steadfast position against antisemitism and for his solidarity with the state of Israel. There is no one in Canada who has done more than Jason Kenney to combat the demonization and attempted delegitimization of Israel and the growing antisemitism that so often masquerades as anti-Zionism.”
Proceeds from the dinner will establish The Jason Kenney Holocaust Education Fund for Canadian and International Students at the University of Haifa.
Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, said, “As a member of the tribute committee, I fully support the honour being bestowed on one of Canada’s finest leaders and on one of Israel’s greatest friends.”
Kenney’s office declined to comment.