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Take action: Defend Palestine House and free speech in Canada

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We are sharing this appeal for action from the Campaign to Defend Free Speech which outlines the series of attacks on free speech and Palestine solidarity organizing in Canada.

Palestine House has become the latest target of Jason Kenney's ongoing attacks on free speech rights and Palestine solidarity in Canada. Last week, Palestine House was informed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, including its minister, Jason Kenney, that all funding for Palestine House's immigration settlement program had been cut. Before Kenney's announcement, department officials had praised Palestine House, a Palestinian cultural and educational organization based in Mississauga, for its highly successful settlement program.

Kenney's decision to cut funding is entirely political, and part of a broader pattern of government-led censorship and intimidation of anyone who is critical of Canada's foreign policy, especially in relation to Israel and Palestine. This is not the first time Kenney has targeted civil society groups in response to their political views. Other targets include:

The Canadian Arab Federation, whose funding was cut by Kenney in February 2009, in response to its criticism of Harper's support for Israel’s war on Gaza

Former British MP George Galloway, who was banned from entering Canada by Kenney in March 2009, in response to his humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza

Pathways to Peace, an academic conference at York University in June 2009, which had its funding threatened by an unprecedented intervention by a Conservative cabinet minister

KAIROS, whose funding was cut by Bev Oda in November 2009 (Kenney later boasted to an audience in Jerusalem that the cut represented his government’s "zero tolerance" policy on anti-Semitism)

Rights & Democracy, whose Conservative-appointed board members cut funding in January 2010 to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that were critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose funding was cut by the Conservatives in January 2010 (UNRWA administers health and education programs to 59 Palestinian refugee camps)

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian democracy activist and former presidential candidate, who was denied entry to Canada for a speaking tour in March 2010

Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual campus-based educational conference, which was attacked by Conservative MPs, who attempted to condemn it in Parliament in March 2011

Palestine solidarity in general, which the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) attempted to equate with anti-Semitism, in its report issued in July 2011

These attacks represent a serious threat to free speech in Canada. Kenney's attack on Palestine House also represents the loss of 22 jobs in the community, and all the services they provide. Kenney – and the rest of the Conservative caucus – must be held to account. Please take a moment to send an email message to Jason Kenney and to Bob Dechert, the Conservative Member of Parliament who represents Mississauga-Erindale, where Palestine House is located, to let them know you oppose this attack on free speech:

Step 1:
In your email message, cut-and-paste the following email addresses into the "To:" line:

jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, Minister@cic.gc.ca, bob.dechert@parl.gc.ca, bob.dechert.c1@parl.gc.ca

Step 2:
Cut-and-paste info@PalestineHouse.com into the "Cc:" or "Bcc:" line. Let Palestine House know you support their demand to restore funding now.

Step 3:
Cut-and-paste "We support Palestine House. Restore funding now." into the Subject line.

Step 4:
Cut-and-paste the message below. Write your own personal statement at the beginning of the message (optional). Be sure to include your name and address at the end of the message.

I oppose your decision to cut federal funding for the successful immigration settlement program administered by Palestine House. This decision is not based on the success of the program (which your department has recognized), but on politics. I oppose any move by the Canadian government to penalize civil society and cultural organizations in Canada based on their legitimate political views. This represents an attack on free speech and free expression in Canada, and is contributing to the steady criminalization of Palestine solidarity initiatives in Canada. I call on you to reverse your decision and to restore immediately the federal funding for Palestine House's immigration settlement program. Thank you for your consideration.

Step 5:

Please stay tuned for further actions. For more information, email info@PalestineHouse.com. In the meantime, please forward this email to allies and supporters.

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