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All in all, Mr. Speaker, this resolution is not an attempt to limit free speech; rather, I am using my right of free speech to express my views and those of my constituents on this important issue. It is not an attempt to address the complex history of political situation in the Middle East. My concerns with Israeli Apartheid Week are much closer to home. I fear for the safety and the well-being of Jewish students, staff, visitors and other supporters of Israel who are marginalized by this event and made the target of fear, distrust and anti-Semitism. I oppose the use of the word "apartheid" in the context of Israel, which is an open and democratic state, where people of all backgrounds vote and hold office and where the rule of law is respected. I oppose the propaganda campaign associated with Israeli Apartheid Week. It is not a campaign that will ever lead to peace.

My hope is that through this resolution, this House can send a message that it does not condone divisiveness, intolerance and fear. This House does not tolerate harassment and intimidation of any group. This House does not support unbalanced and inflammatory propaganda and this House does not support anti-Semitism.

* (11:10)

Rather, this House supports balanced, reasonable and respectful debate. This House supports the fostering of an environment on our university campuses that promotes learning and mutual respects. This House supports a vision of our university campuses as places for spirited and informed discussion of many issues, above all, as safe and inclusive institutions where students from all backgrounds, Mr. Speaker, can feel safe.

I hope that all members of this House, today, will stand and join with us in denouncing Israeli Apartheid Week, and stand in support of efforts to work with people from all backgrounds towards safety, inclusivity and tolerance on our university campuses and, indeed, a safer and inclusive and more tolerant world, Mr. Speaker.

So I hope that all members will join with our members on this side of the House, today, to denounce Israeli Apartheid Week, support this resolution and make sure that it passes today.

Mr. Speaker: Order. I would like to remind our guests in the gallery that our rules state that there is to be no participation by our guests in the gallery, and that includes applauding. Just a friendly reminder to our guests, please.

Hon. Dave Chomiak (Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing the resolution. I welcome the opportunity to speak in this Chamber.

I'm proud to be a Manitoban and to have grown up in the '50s and gone to a North End school where we were all called DPs–even us who weren't DPs. Every week on the school playground yard, a bunch of new DPs would come in. We'd have the DPs playing the Americans on the soccer field. My point is Manitoba is a province of immigration, tolerance, understanding.

I'm blessed to have been to Israel twice. I'm honoured that I used to sit and watch the documentaries with my mother, my very learned mother, about the Holocaust. And I believe the Holocaust is the single-most pivotal, historical event of the 20th century, and they'll look back many centuries from now and say, how could such a civilized people be involved in something like that? It's a tradition that we, in the last century, should never forget, and ought to be ashamed of.

I believe this resolution was brought forward with the best of intentions, but I think the resolution is an error and a tactical error on the part of the member. And I'm not criticizing anyone's sincerity, but let me outline the two reasons why I believe this resolution is a mistake in tactics.

Firstly, the A-word, which I won't even use in this Legislature, to talk about Israel is inaccurate. Notwithstanding the–in fact, Jimmy, when Jimmy Carter used that A-word I was disgusted. It's the wrong word. It applies inaccurately. It does not apply to Israel in no shape or form. It diminishes what happened in South Africa and all the efforts the Canadian and other governments did to get rid of the A-process. And the problem with the A-word is it's inflammatory, and it causes difficulty. So I won't even state that word in this Chamber.

But my second reason relates to that. My second reason why I believe this resolution is a tactical mistake relates to that, and that is the process that the member talked about failed. It didn't get off the ground. It wasn't a major issue here, Mr. Speaker. I'm not questioning the member's right or any of our rights to speak, but the process failed. It failed because of the place Manitoba is. It did not become a big issue. By us raising this as an issue, and voting on this in the Legislature, we give a platform. Now, the member should–we give a platform for those who failed, for those who put in process a process that was a non-event, was bad publicity. We give them a forum.

By–[interjection] Unbelievable, the member may say, but think about it. We've taken the event that blew in and blew out, caused some controversy but was a non-event. But now standing up and giving those people the right to put out more press releases, put out more news information about an event that failed, we have given a failure a platform. And that's why I think, tactically, this resolution is a mistake. It's a mistake to bring this resolution forward to the Legislature. The tactic did not work.

And we in Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, are a strong enough province and a strong enough community to ensure that that kind–[interjection]

I allowed the member to speak. The member talked about how important this is to herself, and this is important to me and my community, as well. So I beg the member to allow me to speak my opinion on an issue that I, too, have lost sleep on.

And I've thought a lot about this. And you don't reward failure. And you don't give a group that wants to rise up and wants to cause controversy and wants to use the A-word in connection over and over and over again with Israel. You don't give them a forum to say, wow, the Manitoba Legislature, now vote on this. There's going to be a press release. There's going to be a controversy. There's going to be probably some people out there with protest signs saying, the Manitoba Legislature is against free speech. That's not what we're saying, but that's what they're going to say.

And that's why I think this resolution, as well intentioned as it is, and I'm not disregarding the intention, I think can be used as a point of divisiveness, not as a point of unity, which is what we've done very well in this Chamber. We've done Yad Vashem collectively and as a group. I've–we've attended regularly for over a decade. But, I think, by making this a resolution or an issue in this Chamber, we do more harm than good.

First, do no harm. On this very sensitive issue, someone who's read widely, travelled widely and is a strong supporter, historically and otherwise, of the most oppressed race in the history of human civilization, be it in England, be it in Spain, be it in the–Poland, be it in Ukraine where my parents come–my father won't even go back to Ukraine. You know why he said he wouldn't go back to Ukraine? Because the whole place was wiped out and the people he knew and dealt with were all gone. And he wasn't talking just about Ukrainians.

So I come to this issue saying I think it's a tactical error in this Chamber for us to make this a resolution, to give a platform for a group that failed, for a group that keeps trying to use the A-wo

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.