If you could give just a few hours to build relationships and build goodwill for the Jewish community, would you do it? Now – during an election – is the best possible time to get active and engaged so that you can make a real difference. Voting is a start, but it’s not enough.
Our community makes up less than 1.1% of the population and we’re continuing to shrink. We also tend to live in urban centres. That means we have an impact at the ballot box in just 10 (three percent) of Canada’s 338 ridings. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We need to get engaged so we can work beyond just our local ridings where we vote.
CJPAC, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, is a multi-partisan, nonprofit organization. CJPAC’s mandate is to engage our community in the political process and foster active political participation. We work hard to build relationships, especially with candidates in the other 97% of ridings. If we had a repeat of last election, where there was a turnover of at least one-third new members of Parliament, that would be a lot of new relationships to build. We can start the process early by community members volunteering and getting to know the candidates and vice versa.
In the last federal election, 70 races – that’s 20% of all races in Canada – were won or lost by less than a five percent margin. Some races were lost by only 50 votes! A few more volunteers could have made the difference from being just a candidate to becoming an MP.
Hands down, the most effective way to make a difference this election is by volunteering for the candidate or campaign of your choice. Every campaign is hungry for volunteers, and just a small amount of time can be a big help.
You can expect to go door-knocking (possibly with your candidate!), make phone calls to constituents, hand out literature in the community, put up lawn signs or even work in a polling station.
“It’s a few hours of time committed, and it really does make a difference,” said Sharon Fitch, who volunteered on an NDP campaign in Victoria.
Volunteering can be done with the whole family and high school students can even get volunteer credit in some provinces, building their resumés along the way. Jonah Presser was just 15 when he first volunteered on a Conservative campaign in Montreal.
“It’s an excellent networking opportunity, builds confidence and you never know where volunteering could lead you,” he said.
CJPAC’s team makes volunteering easy by training you on the ins and outs of campaign volunteering, connecting you with the campaign of your choice and being there for you throughout the volunteering process. You can volunteer in your local riding or in one of the other 328 ridings where there is no strong Jewish presence. Maybe that means volunteering 20 minutes away from your home or, if you have a cottage, volunteering there. We need to cover a lot of ground to build goodwill and have the biggest impact.
“CJPAC supported connecting me to whatever party I wanted and helped me navigate who to contact,” said Maddy Cooper, who volunteered on a Liberal campaign in Toronto.
Even though Election Day is Shemini Atzeret (Oct. 21), campaigns need help every day of the week and every day of the election period.
You have the power to make a difference for the candidate you support and the opportunity to ensure that they have a connection to the Jewish community. So, take the first step by signing up to volunteer at cjpac.ca/volunteer, and CJPAC will connect you with the campaign or candidate of your choice.
Regardless of how one votes, it is incumbent upon all of us to build relationships with all parties. Our community is not monolithic and that is a great strength, especially when it comes to elections. Let’s put that strength into action.
Don’t wait to get engaged in this election. The outcome is in your hands.
Joseph Papermanis the chair and Mark Waldman is the executive director of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. This article originally appeared in the CJN.
A full house came out to the CIJA-SUCCESS townhall Sept. 23, which featured six Vancouver mayoral candidates. (photo from CIJA)
The refracted nature of Vancouver’s civic politics was on full display at a candidates meeting featuring six of the perceived front-running candidates for mayor. The near-implosion of the governing Vision Vancouver party, combined with divisions among erstwhile Non-Partisan Association members, has led to a race with both the left and right sides of the political spectrum divided and struggling to gain traction in a campaign with 21 contenders.
The afternoon event Sept. 23 was co-sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the multicultural organization SUCCESS, which is rooted in the Chinese-Canadian community. Veteran Vancouver broadcaster Jody Vance handily moderated the occasionally raucous meeting.
Housing affordability topped the list of issues, with Kennedy Stewart, a former NDP member of Parliament for Burnaby-South who resigned that seat to run for Vancouver mayor as an independent, said his plan to attack unaffordability calls for building 85,000 new homes over the next 10 years, including affordable and market rentals.
Ken Sim, an entrepreneur who founded Nurse Next Door and Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels and who is the candidate for the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA), responded by claiming that the construction industry does not have the capacity to meet Stewart’s construction schedule.
Wai Young, a former Conservative member of Parliament for Vancouver South, is running with a new party, called Coalition Vancouver, which was originated by a group of former NPA members who felt betrayed by what they call a lack of democracy in that party.
“Vancouver does not have a supply issue,” Young said about the housing situation. “There are no millionaires wandering around Vancouver that are unable to buy a house or a luxury condo. The issue is that we are not able to keep our young people, our young families, here because they can’t afford to buy a house. We have an affordability issue in Vancouver.”
“If I am mayor, we will have a three percent vacancy rate,” said Shawna Sylvester, who is running as an independent but has roots in Vision Vancouver. The rate today is about zero. She supports more co-ops, cohousing and what she called “gentle densification,” as well as addressing how the housing situation has particular impacts for women, who experience poverty in greater proportions than men.
Partly related to the affordability issue is the topic of Vancouver’s reputation as a place that is welcoming of people from diverse backgrounds.
David Chen, who is running with another new party, ProVancouver, noted that racism is alive and well in the city.
“My parents were first-generation Taiwanese [Canadian],” said Chen. “I was born in St. Paul’s [Hospital] because, at that time, it was the only hospital they were allowed to go to. During this campaign, I heard somebody say to me, ‘Go home.’ Well, I am home.” He added: “We haven’t progressed as much as we should or could.”
The NPA’s Sim echoed the experience and extrapolated it to the Jewish community.
“I’m 47 right now,” said Sim, “and I still remember the hurtful comments that I faced when I was 5 years old. It was tough. I think of what’s going on to our Jewish community right now. We still have a lot of issues. I’m acutely aware of what our Jewish community goes through because, when something happens halfway around the world, our friends in the Jewish community have to worry about their physical safety. That’s terrible. We will have zero tolerance for that, as mayor of Vancouver. We’re going to work with community groups, work with the Jewish community, work with all communities identifying threats to our communities and working on solutions to protect us, to protect our communities, and we will monitor our results.”
Hector Bremner, another former NPA member now leading another new party, YES Vancouver, is the only candidate for mayor currently sitting on Vancouver city council.
“Racism is a symptom, it’s not the disease,” Bremner said. “When do racial tensions flare up, when do they happen? They happen in a time when the people feel that resources are scarce and they feel pressure economically. It’s really a function of tribalism and nativism that occurs when people feel that it’s hard for them to make it. We look for scapegoats.”
Sylvester, who among many other roles is director of the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, said people need to stand up to extremist voices and actions.
“There are forces in our communities, whether we want to acknowledge them or not, that are trying to divide us,” she said. “What we need to do [is] not be tolerant of any kind of hate crime, not be tolerant of antisemitism.”
Stewart said those who don’t subscribe to Canadian ideas of tolerance should be helped to change their minds.
“Immigration is really one of the best things about being Canadian,” he said. “We travel around the world and we brag about it. Multiculturalism is a Canadian word and it’s something we’ve exported. It’s something we should embrace, and most of us do. Those that don’t, we have to help them understand, change their opinions.”
Accusations of intolerance and implications of racism emerged in the debate.
Young, who had originally sought the NPA mayoral nomination, implied that her supporters, many of whom were from the Chinese community, weren’t welcome in the NPA. This brought a sharp rebuke from Sim.
“Guess what, I’m Chinese,” he said. “Here’s the real issue. When you [say] inflammatory statements like that to win a political agenda, you create divisions in our communities. People don’t like that. You put a wedge. That is a problem and you’ve got to knock it off.”
Sim went on to accuse politicians of stoking already existing embers of intolerance around foreign purchasers of Vancouver real estate.
“For political expediency, what politicians are doing is pointing at groups and blaming groups for problems,” he said. “We have a lot of issues with affordability and there are a lot of things that affect affordability and housing. I’m not saying foreign purchases do not affect housing. But, when we point to it and we blame a group, that starts a slippery slope. That’s what’s dividing our city, our province and our country. I call on everyone here to knock it off, because there are a lot of things that affect affordability – permitting delays, interest rates, the economy – but to point to something for political expediency because it wins votes is dividing people and it’s hurtful.”
The meeting took place in a SUCCESS building in Chinatown, close to the Downtown Eastside. Candidates agreed that more needs to be done to confront the seemingly intractable challenges facing that area of the city.
Young said she had visited a seniors home in Chinatown earlier in the day and was told residents are afraid to go outside.
“They can no longer walk outside of their building,” she said. “That should not happen in our beautiful city. There was a time I remember coming down here to Chinatown when it was vibrant, when it was safe, when you didn’t feel like you couldn’t be on the wrong side of the street here.… This city has gotten dirtier and grittier…. There are needles everywhere, there is defecation everywhere. We are one of the top 10 cities in the world and yet, currently, it’s embarrassing to have your friends come visit.”
She promised to be “John Horgan’s worst enemy,” referring to the B.C. premier, in demanding provincial help to address the issues in the area.
Stewart touted his connections with former NDP member of Parliament Libby Davies, who previously represented the area in Ottawa.
“Last week, I was very proud to stand with Libby Davies in the Downtown Eastside and announce that, as mayor, I would immediately strike an emergency task force to deal with the opioid epidemic and homelessness,” Stewart said. “We cannot have the number of deaths that are happening and the number of overdoses. We can’t have the impacts on the people that are suffering through illness and addiction problems.”
Another perennial issue candidates addressed was transportation and congestion.
“Vancouverites spend 88 hours of your life every year sitting in congestion,” said Young. “That’s like a two-week holiday.”
Sim promised an independent review of congestion in the city.
“The number of cars has not increased in the city in the last 20 years but congestion has,” he said. He blamed a range of factors, including bike lanes, left-hand turns, people running yellow lights and getting stopped by police, pedestrians crossing after the indicator says “don’t walk,” and roads that are closed for construction longer than necessary.
Chen said getting people to switch from cars to transit requires improving the system.
“If you use negative reinforcement, you’re not going to get people to switch,” he said. “It’s not reliable, it’s not convenient, it’s not cheaper, it’s not faster. You [improve] those four items and suddenly people may just switch.”
The would-be mayors mooted the availability of culturally appropriate services, such as seniors care, community security for institutions like synagogues and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, and unisex washrooms.
During the debate, Stewart repeatedly emphasized that he, Bremner and Young were the only ones with elective experience, a tack that may be motivated by the few polls on the race, which have indicated that Stewart’s toughest opponent is Sim.
A sold-out crowd attended CJPAC’s Women in Politics Pecha Kucha event on Oct. 24, which featured four speakers, including CJPAC’s Sherry Barad Firestone (standing on the left). (photo from CJPAC)
On Oct. 24, CJPAC (the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee) hosted its first Women in Politics Pecha Kucha event in Vancouver. It was a sold-out crowd with women and men of all ages and political backgrounds in attendance. Hodie Kahn hosted the event at her home.
The Pecha Kucha style of 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide created a dynamic evening that allowed CJPAC to showcase four guest speakers, all Jewish, each highlighting different facets of political engagement, as well as its importance and its accessibility during and between elections.
CJPAC advisory board chair Sherry Barad Firestone, originally from Vancouver but now living in Toronto, was one of the presenters. “It was such a thrill to participate,” said Firestone. “It was nice to be able to share my experience as someone who does not come from a political background. We often think politics should be left to the experts but there’s a role for all of us, regardless of experience, in our democracy.”
Other presenters included Temple Sholom Rabbi Carey Brown, an American transfer to Canada, who is passionate about adult and youth education, social justice and teen engagement; Dr. Moira Stilwell, who served as the member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Langara from 2009 until 2017, and was a minister of several portfolios; and, Rakeea Gordis, a high school student who has attended political rallies, volunteered on campaigns and recently became an EF Canadian Youth Ambassador.
Perhaps one of the best and inspiring quotes of the night came from Gordis, who stated, “I’m too young to vote. The only way I can use my womanly voice is to volunteer on campaigns.”
Kara Mintzberg, B.C. regional director for CJPAC, noted that CJPAC hopes to have more events focused on women’s experience in politics. “We know that it’s not always easy to be a woman in politics but we think events such as these, in particular hearing from their peers, will encourage more women to get involved and, ultimately, it will become easier for those who follow.”
CJPAC is hosting another event soon – the Ultimate Kiddush Club, featuring “Scotch master” Barry Dunner, on Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m. For more information about the evening or any other CJPAC events and opportunities, contact Mintzberg at [email protected] or 604-343-4126.
Left to right: Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia Dr. Moira Stilwell (Liberal), George Heyman (NDP) and Selina Robinson (NDP). (photo from Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee)
Israeli wines met Canadian cheese on March 8, when more than 100 people came together for a CJPAC (Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee), CIJA (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) and Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island reception in Victoria.
Attendance included four provincial government ministers – the Hon. Norm Letnick (agriculture), the Hon. Steve Thomson (forests, lands and natural resource operations), the Hon. Naomi Yamamoto (minister of state for emergency preparedness) and the Hon. Amrik Virk (technology, innovation and citizens’ services) – 28 members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 39 staffers and many community members, some of whom came to the event from Vancouver. John Horgan, leader of the Official Opposition, attended as well.
Also present were Jason Murray (chair, Local Partner Council, CIJA Pacific Region), Gabe Garfinkel (CIJA Local Partner Council member and CJPAC Fellowship alumnus), Ed Fitch (CIJA national board member), Ezra Shanken (chief executive officer of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver), Stephen Gaerber (JFGV board chair) and Chabad of Vancouver Island Rabbi Meir Kaplan.
While an annual wine and cheese event is held at the federal level in Ottawa, this is the first year that CJPAC and CIJA have held the joint reception in British Columbia.
“It is critical that our community get involved in the Canadian political process, and events such as these help facilitate that engagement,” said Kara Mintzberg, CJPAC’s B.C. regional director.
CJPAC’s mandate is focused on getting the Jewish and pro-Israel community involved in the democratic process. As the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada, CIJA’s mandate is to build and nurture relationships with leaders across the country, including in government, civil society and other faith and ethnic communities, in order to advance issues of common cause for the benefit of all Canadians.
“Events like the wine and cheese in Victoria allow us to bring members of our community together with provincial officials in order to deepen the excellent relationships our community has with our elected representatives,” said Nico Slobinsky, director of CIJA Pacific Region.
Guests at the reception sampled a range of Israeli wines and many B.C.-produced cheeses.
“I was delighted that a number of members of the board of the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island were able to be there,” said JFVVI president Dr. Aaron Devor. “Both CIJA and CJPAC do tremendous work and it’s exciting to see them focus their outreach on communities on the Island.”
Mintzberg said that B.C. community members can expect more CIJA/CJPAC events in the future.
“Although our organizations have different mandates, we are both working toward a common goal and we think these joint events are a great way to show the community what we have to offer,” she said.
For more information about CIJA or CJPAC in the province, contact Slobinsky ([email protected] or 604-340-2437) or Mintzberg ([email protected] or 604-343-4126), respectively.
Kara Mintzberg (B.C. regional director of CJPAC), Ron Laufer, centre, and Michael Schwartz. (photo from Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia)
With Canada’s 2015 federal election so closely contested, Jewish community organizations continued to the dying days of the long campaign to try to encourage volunteerism and interest in the electoral process. One such point of community engagement was the talk Observing Democracy by Ron Laufer on Oct. 8 at the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia. Presented in conjunction with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), the evening was a chance for people to hear about the challenging conditions under which elections run in a variety of countries around the world.
Laufer works as an election observer and administrator. He has administered private elections locally, in the case of court-ordered elections of nonprofit organizations such as the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, for example. His international experience includes primarily work for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He has acted as an election analyst, polling station advisor and deputy head of mission for many international elections. Some of these elections were not particularly democratic while others, although complex in their execution, were perhaps surprisingly democratic in their process.
The Afghan election in 2005 was an example of a logistically complicated election. Not only was the concept of democratic elections new, but also a large proportion of the population is both illiterate and isolated in places unreachable by motorized vehicle.
“We used hundreds of donkeys, camels and horses to transport election materials,” said Laufer. The ballots were sometimes seven broadsheet pages on which voters needed to cast seven votes, no more, no less, in order for the ballot to be valid.
Laufer worked on this election on the ground in Afghanistan for six months in order to help educate the population, organize the ballots and the voting, and assess the results afterward. From the slides he showed, another challenge was keeping the election observers safe. “One trip included two international observers, with about 18 others between the interpreters and the security staff.”
Just a sampling of the countries Laufer has visited to help in some fashion with their elections includes Turkmenistan, India, Nigeria, Iceland, Hungary, Kosovo, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Austria, Tunisia, Malta and Albania. With the exception of Nigeria, these countries are all member states of OSCE. Much of his work as an observer has been for the OSCE, since all member states are required to have observers of their elections. There are 57 states who have signed on to the OSCE, so this keeps Laufer quite busy, considering the length of his missions can range from one week to observe an election day to a long-term mission of up to six months.
Membership in OSCE is, in some cases, a screen for undemocratic states, such as Turkmenistan, and countries like Hungary and Bulgaria, which are becoming increasingly less democratic, said Laufer.
While he offered many examples of countries in which elections are no more than a show put on by the ruling dynasty, he also gave examples of countries whose systems seem to be improving. His fairly recent trip to Sierra Leone was a bright spot. He said, “They went through hell and back and now it feels like they are moving forward. Their election was fairly smooth.” He acknowledged that elections are only a small part of democracy but said that, without properly run elections, democracy cannot be achieved.
After Laufer answered questions from the floor, Michael Schwartz, JMABC coordinator of programs and development, gave a short presentation that was followed by Kara Mintzberg, B.C. regional director of CJPAC, who spoke briefly on the ways in which Jewish Canadians can “punch above our weight” in an election.
As a community, she said, we represent only 1.1% of the Canadian population and are spread out all over the country; only five percent of all ridings in the federal election were potentially influenced by a concentration of Jewish population in those areas. In general,
CJPAC encourages members of the community to volunteer, and facilitates the introduction of a volunteer who signs up with CJPAC to the volunteer’s choice of campaign, thus alerting the candidate to the participation and interest of a Jewish volunteer. This knowledge, it is hoped, will make the candidates more aware of the Jewish and/or pro-Israel presence and support in his or her riding.
Among CJPAC’s activities leading up to the Oct. 19 federal election was an all-candidates meeting on Oct. 1 at Beth Israel Synagogue with more than 500 in attendance. CJPAC’s mission of fostering Jewish and pro-Israel political leadership is not limited to election time.
For more information on the JMABC, visit jewishmuseum.ca. To become involved in political advocacy through CJPAC, visit cpjac.ca.
Michelle Dodekis a freelance writer living in Vancouver.
B.C. Generation students in Ottawa earlier this year. (photo from CJPAC-BC)
This summer, CJPAC, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, celebrated the first anniversary of its British Columbia office. The multi-partisan organization, which already had offices in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton, recently expanded its presence with offices in Vancouver and Winnipeg.
CJPAC’s mandate is to engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process and to foster active political participation. It is dedicated to helping community members build relationships within the Canadian political arena.
In the last year, CJPAC’s B.C. office has hosted a number of events, including Vancouver Connect: Meet Your Next Mayor, which was an opportunity for 100 participants to meet with mayoral and city council candidates in advance of the municipal election, and the second annual Women in Politics gathering, at which 45 community members heard about working in politics from five female politicians and political staffers.
In addition, last May, 11 B.C. high school students traveled to Ottawa as part of CJPAC’s Generation program for two days of networking and training sessions. While in Ottawa, the students had a tour of Parliament Hill, observed Question Period and met with elected officials from all parties.
“In a little over a year, CJPAC has had a tremendous impact on the B.C. community,” said Karen James, CJPAC board member. “Its staff has addressed over 700 people at synagogues throughout Vancouver, as well as 200 campers, 90 high school students and 60 seniors. They have also visited community members in Nanaimo, Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria.”
CJPAC’s ultimate goal is to help the Jewish and pro-Israel community have an impact beyond its numbers by encouraging as many of its members as possible to get engaged in politics, particularly through volunteering.
“Our unique programs are aimed at all age groups and are designed to make people comfortable with volunteering, even if it’s for the very first time,” said Kara Mintzberg, B.C. regional director. “In this federal election year, it is important that our community volunteers in high numbers. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment; just a few hours can make a significant difference to a campaign.”
According to recent research, only 10% of Canadians have volunteered in an election. However, in the last federal election, 101 – one-third of ridings – changed parties and 51 ridings had a margin of victory of five percent or less. Volunteers are hugely important, particularly in close ridings, and campaigns need people for all kinds of tasks: envelope stuffing, door knocking, making phone calls, putting up lawn signs and identifying and getting voters to polling stations on election day.
Bill Kaplan, CJPAC board member, noted that “recent polls indicate that the federal election could be very close, particularly in B.C., which means that our community – although small relative to the rest of the Canadian population – has the ability to make a real difference just by volunteering, regardless of the party or candidate individual members choose to support.”
During the last federal election, CJPAC connected more than 900 community members with campaigns.
“We would be happy to help connect you with the candidate or party of your choice in 2015,” said Mintzberg. “If you’re not sure who you would like to volunteer with, we can help with that, too. The important thing is to get involved and ensure our community has a significant impact this election.”
For more information on how to connect with the campaign of your choice, contact Mintzberg at [email protected] or 604-343-4126. To learn more about CJPAC and its programs, visit cjpac.ca.
Left to right: Cathy Golden, MP Wai Young, Erin Kizell, Pamela Martin, Dr. Tracy Ames, MLA Selina Robinson, Jes Simkin, Maya Russell, Enav Zusman, Eleanor Millar, MP Dr. Hedy Fry and Karen James. (photo by Lianne Cohen)
On Nov. 13, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) hosted its second annual Women in Politics event at Congregation Schara Tzedeck, bringing together a multi-partisan group of more than 40 community members of all ages, genders and cities to learn more about what it is like to be a woman in politics.
Inspiring stories were shared and thoughtful questions were posed throughout the evening as the moderators and committee members, some of whom are graduates of CJPAC’s Fellowship program, helped facilitate the conversations.
“Events such as these are a key part of CJPAC’s mandate to mobilize and engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process and increase political participation,” said committee member Karen James. “I think that it is especially important to increase the political engagement of women in our community because we often bring a different perspective to the issues.”
Participants gathered in small groups and met with MPs Dr. Hedy Fry and Wai Young, MLA Selina Robinson, Pamela Martin, Maya Russell and Eleanor Millar. These women spoke about life as an elected official or political staffer and the unique challenges often faced by women in this milieu.
“Listening to those wonderful, powerful women talk about the path they took in life and how they ended up where they are today was inspiring and motivational. As a young woman at the beginning of my career, I learned a lot from participating in the event,” said Enav Zusman, one of the moderators.
Erin Kizell, another of the evening’s moderators, noted, “The women who spoke at the CJPAC event really showed why political engagement is important. It doesn’t require the full-time commitment of being an elected official or political staffer – even just a few hours of volunteer work can make a huge difference. What’s most important is that we all get involved to ensure that our voices are heard.”
CJPAC recently opened a new office in Vancouver and will be hosting events into the new year and in advance of the 2015 federal election. CJPAC can offer guidance on how to volunteer on a campaign of your choice, and can organize volunteer training sessions for your staff, students, board or sports team. To learn more, contact Kara Mintzberg, CJPAC B.C. regional director, at [email protected] or 604-343-4126.
Benjamin Mintzberg and Clementina Tai at CJPAC’s mayoral event. (photo from Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee)
On Oct. 7, CJPAC (Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee) hosted Vancouver Connect: Meet Your Next Mayor at Congregation Beth Israel. The event brought together more than 100 community members of all ages and mayoral candidates and their representatives in advance of the upcoming Vancouver municipal election.
“Vancouver Connect really provided us the opportunity to engage with the candidates and hear their take on municipal issues,” said participant Michael Schwartz. “The intimate atmosphere allowed us to ask questions about some of the larger issues facing Vancouver, such as transit and recycling, but also engage with issues that may be unique to the Jewish community in the city.”
During the first part of the evening, participants were arranged in small groups and met with individual candidates for a group discussion, and question and answer period. Candidates/representatives for this part of the evening included Councilor Geoff Meggs (Vision Vancouver), mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe (NPA) and mayoral candidate Meena Wong (COPE).
The second part of the evening included networking between participants and candidates/representatives, including candidates and staff from the Bob Kasting mayoral campaign, the Cedar Party and Green Party of Vancouver, with regrets from the Colin Shandler mayoral campaign.
Tyler Golden, one of the evening’s moderators, noted that “encouraging involvement and engagement in the political process is crucial; especially within the pro-Israel and Jewish community. The excitement and energy in the room was really inspiring.”
Events such as these are a key part of CJPAC’s mandate to mobilize and engage Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process and increase political participation. CJPAC is dedicated to helping members of the community build relationships with elected officials at all levels of government, and those within the Canadian political arena.
CJPAC’s recently opened office in British Columbia will be hosting several events over the next few months, starting with its Women in Politics evening taking place on Nov. 13, 7-9 p.m., at Congregation Schara Tzedeck. Advance registration is required. To register for this event, or to learn more about how to become a volunteer with the campaign of your choice, contact Kara Mintzberg, CJPAC B.C. regional director, at [email protected] or 778-903-1854. The Vancouver municipal election is on Nov. 15.
Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was in Vancouver on April 10, and addressed a roundtable lunch organized by CJPAC. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) hosted a community roundtable lunch on Thursday, April 10, with Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
“CJPAC seeks to activate the Jewish community in the Canadian political process, and roundtables such as these provide opportunities to build relationships and engage with elected officials from all political parties,” explained Mark Waldman, CJPAC’s executive director, in an email after the event.
“CJPAC is a multi-partisan, national organization that has been active in Vancouver for many years,” he added. As an example of the organization’s work locally, he noted, “Recently in Vancouver, CJPAC hosted an event called Women in Politics, which was attended by more than 30 women. Participants engaged on a personal level with former and current female politicians from a number of political parties and levels of government.”
Thursday’s lunch meeting took place in a boardroom at Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP downtown. It seemed like a couple of dozen community members were in attendance. As they were leaving, Trudeau spoke briefly with the Jewish Independent before heading to another appointment.
“… I’m glad to say that any government of Canada will be supportive of Israel, not for ideological or political or strategic reasons, but because the values Israel stands for are Canadian values of openness, of respect, of democracy, of equality, and we need more of that, particularly in the tough neighborhood that Israel is in.”
“It went great,” he said about how the roundtable went. “We talked about, obviously, Canada’s support of Israel, which is extremely important to me and the point I made is that I am an unequivocal supporter of Israel. We need a two-state solution of a Jewish state on one side and a Palestinian state. Where I take issue a little bit with the prime minister these days is just that he’s tended to make it a little more of a domestic football, with some people being more supporters of Israel than others, and I’m happy to say that I love the prime minister for his support of Israel and thank Mr. Mulcair for his personal support of Israel as well, and I’m glad to say that any government of Canada will be supportive of Israel, not for ideological or political or strategic reasons, but because the values Israel stands for are Canadian values of openness, of respect, of democracy, of equality, and we need more of that, particularly in the tough neighborhood that Israel is in.”
Domestically, there have been changes made or proposed at the federal level over the years that, in the opinion of some, challenge those very values of openness, respect, democracy and equality, a recent example being Bill C-23, or the Fair Elections Act. When asked to describe his vision of the role of a federal government, Trudeau responded, “First of all, we have to understand that Canada is a federation, not a unitary state, so how we engage with different levels of government as a federal government – partnership with provinces, partnership with municipalities – and understanding the work together that we do as different levels of government all serves the same citizens.
“Giving a government a majority doesn’t give them the capacity to perpetuate themselves indefinitely by tricking the rules; that’s what happens in developing countries, that’s not what’s supposed to happen in Canada.”
“But even within the way Parliament functions,” he continued, “I made a strong commitment last June towards open Parliament, which would mean less whipped votes; open nominations, which would mean no omnibus bills, no misuse of prorogation, a lot more openness, the transparency around online posting of our expenses. Actually, what we announced in June last year then triggered similar announcements from everyone and now all of Parliament is starting to post online, and that was something that we triggered. So, I think when you look at that, when you look at the partisan approach to the Fair Elections Act – which is a very unfair elections act – I’m certainly trying to get the message out to Canadians that we do not need elections to be fixed in advance in favor of the Conservatives, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Giving a government a majority doesn’t give them the capacity to perpetuate themselves indefinitely by tricking the rules; that’s what happens in developing countries, that’s not what’s supposed to happen in Canada.”
With the defeat of the Parti Quebecois on April 7, there is reason to believe that its proposed Charter of Values will also go by the wayside. However, at least some of the sentiment that allowed it to be proposed in the first place – fear over immigration – likely still exists and, over the last few years, more than one European government has called multiculturalism a failure. In light of this, the Independent asked Trudeau what he thought about the future of multiculturalism in Canada.
“Multiculturalism in Canada is about building a diverse, flourishing fabric of a country that is strong, not in spite of its differences, but because of those differences.
“The German model of multiculturalism failed because they brought over temporary workers from Turkey and never allowed them citizenship, didn’t treat them like Germans and, even a few generations in, they never became [citizens]. Multiculturalism in Canada is about building a diverse, flourishing fabric of a country that is strong, not in spite of its differences, but because of those differences.
“And, I’ll say two things on Quebec. First of all, I, as of last fall, spoke very strongly in a number of editorials to Canadians to not get overly worked up about this Charter of Values, to trust Quebecers because Quebecers were not going to accept this, and I was pleased to see them show that on Monday night, and show that very strongly.
“But the second element: it does demonstrate how politicians can twist perceptions, and a lot of Quebecers who initially expressed support for the idea of the charter did so thinking they were sticking up for equality; you know, ‘liberating people from the oppressive yoke of religion,’ because, of course, in Quebec, that’s what happened through the sixties with their Quiet Revolution. But, as soon as people explained to them, no, this is about people having to choose between their religion or their job, Quebecers said, well, that doesn’t work at all, and that’s exactly what we have.”
When asked if he had any final words before the interview ended, Trudeau said, “Just what a pleasure it is to be out here in Vancouver. I had a great conversation with a number of strong members of the Jewish community and, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time, so I look forward to coming back and doing this again soon.”