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Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Michael Ignatieff. Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


By Rhonda Spivak , May 12, 2010 reposted April 28, 2011

Ignatieff’s One on One with the Winnipeg Jewish Review

The following are questions given to Michael Ignatieff, the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party who was in Winnipeg during an interview on April 24th, and his responses. The questions and answers are reproduced here not necessarily in the order they were asked.


SPIVAK: Do you think there should be an urban aboriginal reserve in Tuxedo [Winnipeg South]?

IGNATIEFF: I can’t comment on that directly. I need to talk to the Chiefs, I need to talk to the community leaders a bit more before I wade in there. You know there’s some issues there that I think I need to think about more before I get drawn in.

SPIVAK: What do you think of the approach of the Obama administration in dealing with Iran so far? First it tried dialogue, but now it has backed away from that ?

IGNATIEFF: I don’t think rapprochement is possible with the Ahmadinejad regime and I can’t believe that that’s the objective of the Obama policy. My sense of the Obama policy is [that it is designed to] contain the regime, isolate the regime, and deter the regime and that I think would be the core of a Canadian policy.

Now the issue is moving towards targeted sanctions, targeted in the sense that they target the core elements of the regime and try and avoid harming civilians in Iran. The thing that we have to get right is that there are a lot of people in Iran not only discontented with the A regime but seeking to move against it so if you are going to have a sanctions  regime it’s got to  target the regime and not cut off the legs of the civilian resistance to the regime  and that’s the balance that Canadian policy and international policy has to follow.  But, there can be no dealing with this regime. It just not an acceptable member of the international community

SPIVAK: How can sanctions target the regime without hurting Iranian civilians?

IGNATIEFF: I think there’s no question that we can target… the Revolutionary Guard, we can target some of the international holding companies that hold regime assets.  [Liberal MP]Irwin Cotler has done wonderful work in thinking about that and marshalling international condemnation of the Iranian regime and also marshalling the instruments of international law to condemn the country for incitement to genocide. That’s been the core of Irwin’s campaign against Iran and it has my full support.


SPIVAK: What do you think about the Harper government’s defunding of KAIROS ?

[On November 30, KAIROS received notice from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that its project proposal for 2009-2013 had been declined, on the basis that its program did not fit CIDA priorities.  In December 16, Jason Kenny Minister of  Citizenship and Immigration said to the Global Forum to Counter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem that “ We have defunded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS, who are taking a  leadership role in the boycott [of Israel.]”

IGNATIEFF: I think there’s something gone badly wrong when a coalition of church groups that has a an established reputation for working in developing nations and doing good decent work  is suddenly defunded by a Conservative government. I think it’s a bad decision, and we can’t understand its rationale.   We think that KAIROS does good work and we would review the file again and see if  whether our impression in opposition is right which is that these guys are going good work, let them get on with it.


SPIVAK: What do you think of the Harper government’s decision to stop Canada’s core funding of  the United Nations Works and Relief Agency [UNWRA] in 2009. Instead of providing  funds to general education or health programs by UNWRA in UNWRA’s general account,  Canada specifically earmarked all Canadian funds towards food aid for Palestinian refugees. 

IGNATIEFF: UNWRA has a 50-60 year record of providing for Palestinian refugees. I know that there is criticism that… they’ve lost their impartiality, they’ve become too controlled by Palestinian elements. So I ‘m aware of the criticisms of UNWRA but I would frankly want to review that decision if we were in government. I think UNWRA is a delivery mechanism for people in need, and I’d want to review that decision… I obviously don’t want don’t want Canadian money going to militants , I don’t want Canadian money supporting political extremism but equally I don’t want us to deny legitimate aid to ,you know, civilians in need.

[For more on this issue of the shift in Canadian funding of UNWRA, see Rhonda Spivak’s  article in the Jerusalem Post , Jan 13, 2010  reprinted here at the very bottom.]


SPIVAK: In January  2010, Canada announced it would be focusing its efforts on funding the  Palestinian  justice system, including building courthouses in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West  Bank? What do you think of that direction in Canadian policy?

IGNATIEFF: When I was last in Jerusalem I talked to some Canadian officials who were involved in Palestinian policing and heaven knows the Palestinian justice system needs all the help it can get and its police and security systems need all the help they can get so these are long standing commitments of Canada and we would again support them provided that there are no ties to militant extremism, provided these are building capacity for legitimate Palestinian institutions.

SPIVAK: What do you think of  the stated intention of  the President of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad to declare a Palestinian state unilaterally by the summer of 2011?

IGNATIEFF: The conditions for recognition for a Palestinian state are very complicated... I’m not going to be drawn into anticipating what Salam Fayyad may or may not do, or what the Palestinians may or may not do.

I’ve always been clear that I believe in a two state solution. I don’t believe Israel can be secure unless its got a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, that can operate as a state, that has a monopoly of the means of force, that lives in peace with Israel and engages in economic partnership with Israel.

So, that’s where I think this has to end and I think that’s where this has to go, but there has to be an orderly process by which Palestinian statehood is achieved and that involves good faith negotiations with the Stare of Israel next door.


Ignatieff made the following statement which appeared in the National Post  in regard to Israel Apartheid Week:

“On university campuses across the country this week, Israeli Apartheid Week will once again attempt to demonize and undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. It is part of a global campaign of calls for divestment, boycotts and pr

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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