Hill Dispatches

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Karl Nerenberg has been reporting on federal politics from Parliament Hill for rabble.ca since September, 2011. In his long career, he has won numerous awards as a broadcaster and documentary filmmaker.

Free trade with the EU and Bill C-31 are connected

| April 28, 2012

The Government issued a press release yesterday announcing that a phalanx of Conservative politicians would be fanning out over the country to tout the benefits of the proposed Canada-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement.

To learn more, here is what the Council of Canadians has to say.

And here is the Government of Canada's official take on it.

While the Government is attempting the hype this agreement, the Commons Immigration Committee is considering the new, tough (and, in some respects, draconian) refugee legislation, Bill C-31.

Well, there's a connection between the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement and Bill C-31.

Some who have watched the Bill C-31 process and the Immigration Minister's almost obsessive efforts to portray Roma refugees as "bogus" (and worse) have wondered: Why all the fuss?

One reason for the fuss is that Canada does not want to offend any part of the European Union while we are negotiating free trade. It is embarrassing for Europe to consider that some EU members so mistreat the Roma that they can qualify as refugees under the Geneva Convention.

That is why Jason Kenney has appeared on HIR, an extreme right Hungarian television network, admonishing the Roma that coming to Canada as refugees is not the proper way to "immigrate" here.

That appearance by Canada's Immigration Minister, on a foreign media outlet that is closely associated with the extreme, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma political right in Hungary, is probably a first in Canadian history!

Virulent anti-Semitism accompanies anti-Roma sentiment in Hungary

The current Conservatives have made great efforts to be favourable and friendly to Canada's Jewish community. That, as the Prime Minister has said, is perfectly legitimate, and something all parties could do.

But, in that context it might shock the current government that no less an authority than well-respected human rights advocate Rabbi Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, has warned against the virulent anti-Semitism of Hungary's extreme right Jobbik Party.

And while Jobbik may be extreme, like Marine Le Pen's Front National in France it is not fringe. It has 47 seats in Parliament, and garnered nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote.

One Jobbik tactic, born out of its nearly violent hostility to Jews, is to get cozy with Iran's Ahmadinejad. Holocaust denial, apparently, makes interesting allies of convenience.

Foxman says many "mainstream" politicians share Jobbik's racism

Rabbi Foxman also warns that these extreme views and coziness with the Iranian regime are not restricted to Jobbik. Many in the governing authoritarian-nationalist party, Fidesz, support those extreme views. Foxman calls on the Fidesz leadership to "discipline" its members if it expects to benefit from continued friendship with Western countries such as the United States.

Verbal anti-Semitism is scary enough. In the case of the Roma, however, the extreme right frequently goes beyond hateful words to violent actions, as Hill Dispatches has frequently pointed out.

And throughout Europe some measure of hostility to the Roma, that continent's largest minority group, prevails. That is why Roma have been seeking asylum in Canada, where they have found until recently a welcoming, diverse environment.

Now, in part to pave the way for a free trade agreement, the Government wants to slam the door on the Roma.

You can read what Rabbi Abraham Foxman has to say about Jobbik's anti-Semitism here.

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