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PM Stephen Harper
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, October 2, 2015



The Winnipeg Jewish Review was given the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper while he was in Winnipeg recently. I was given the opportunity to ask one question. I was able to submit three questions and Mr. Harper chose the one he would answer. By way of background,  I have twice been invited to meet with Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau and attended both times. On the last occasion I asked Trudeau about the Iran deal and have previously asked him about support for Israel and Palestinian unilateral measures at the UN. I have always understood that I have been asked to these ethnic press events by the Liberals and Conservatives since the Jewish vote in South Winnipeg Centre is significant. Since this riding was won by MP Joyce Bateman last time with just over 700 votes, and has previously been Liberal, it has been clear to me for a long time that this riding would be hotly contested. 


I understood from the conversation that I had with the person from Prime Minister Harper's campaign team that there would likely be another journalist at the ethnic press meeting asking a question related to the economy. I decided to focus on submitting  questions that I believed would be of specific interest to the Jewish community in that they related to either Israel or antisemitism or terror in Canada ( by radical jihadists who potentially could target Jews)  


I would have asked Prime Minister  about the Iran deal since I believe it  affects the Jewish world specifically since Iran has repeatedly indicated its desire to wipe Israel off the map. However, I already had received an answer about the Iran issue recently from Jason Kenney, Minister of National defense and was able to compare and contrast it an answer  given by Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau's, when I met him. To see the answers of Kenney and Trudeau on the Iran deal issue click here .



The question that Prime Minister Harper chose to answer out of my three questions related to ISIS and terrorism.


The question I asked Prime Minister Harper was two pronged: I asked him to outline why he is of the view that the Conservative Party's position on fighting ISIS, (as opposed to the approaches of other parties) is more realistic / beneficial to Canada ? (and to Israel ?)  I also asked what Canada has done to insulate Canadians from a potential terror attack on our soil by radical Islamic Extremists?



I want to explain to my readers why in particular I chose the topic of ISIS as a subject. It is because of the threat the group poses not only to Canada, but also to Israel. Specifically, since I read Israeli media daily, I had noticed an article in the Jerusalem Post on September 14 about the fact that Israel is going to build an eastern border fence due to its fear of an ISIS takeover of Jordan.


The article concludes, "Everyone knows the real reason behind the building of this fence-the very real fear that Jordan will collapse. The scenario is not far-fetched. In fact it Israel's nightmare." In this regard, I note that the Winnipeg Jewish Review has our own correspondent Timothy Bratwold in the West Bank area  and over the last few months  when I have been in touch with him, he has been sharing his concerns of a future possible takeover of Jordan by ISIS as well (Note: ISIS cells have been found near Hebron last January). 


Below is PM Harper's answer to my question on ISIL and terrorism:


Harper: They [the other parties] are against the mission against ISIS that’s led by President Obama and has the support of virtually all of our allies, including most of the countries in the region itself in the Middle East. We brought forward new legislation to give our police and security forces the tools other countries have to counter terrorism and the resources, as well. Talking about things like sharing information among departments, being able to act through warrants to prevent terrorist threats if they develop, being able to take down terrorist recruitment websites that may be posted in Canada. These are all things that are sensible things that other countries do. There are also against that. They make a false argument that somehow we have to pick between freedom and security. 


You know proper security legislation enhances our freedoms. Terrorists are a threat to our freedoms. I don’t know what freedom is threatened by anything we are doing, but in principle, the NDP in particular, has opposed   all security legislation. What the other parties say we need to do are humanitarian support in the region and counter radicalization efforts among youth. What I would say to you, is these things we already do. In fact, in this campaign, I announce the Kinishke Project which is a famous counter radicalization project we established coming out of the Air India inquiry. We’ve announced that we are extending that for another 3 years. We have, through the RCMP and other security agencies in Canada, some of the best intercultural dialogue anywhere in the world – that’s why our security forces have been so successful in identifying various plots and breaking them up before they are executed. 


In terms of humanitarian support, we are one of the largest humanitarian donors in that region. $800 Million [goes] directly into the Syrian/Iraq region and Jordan just on the sidelines - about a billion and three if you look at the wider region. So, these are false choices the opposition presents. Because you are doing humanitarian support, why can’t you do military support, as well? Because you are doing counter radicalization, why can’t you also have stronger security legislation to deal with actual or potential terrorists? So, we are doing all of these things.


On ISIS, let me just speak to that in particular. I actually think the Liberal and NDP positions on the mission against ISIS are actually shocking. They are so out of line with what virtually every country in the world believes. This is an organization that has established control over a significant territory in Syria and Iraq. Its declared goal is to foment attack and attack on various western countries including Canada and Canadians by name. They have made this an objective. They have been clear on this. They’ve been also clear in their capacity, left to their own devices, to execute such a task. We think it is vitally important that we put pressure on this organization so that it is fighting to hold its territory instead of using its territory as a base to propagate attacks around the world including Canada.   And I really don’t know what the counter argument is other than they have just anti-military arguments on the part of the Liberals and that NDP. I think it’s foolish and virtually every other country has come to the same conclusion so look… I think there is a pretty clear distinction on this issue, as well; obviously we are running a campaign that is about security, the security of our economy but also the security of our country. Only the Conservative party is going to take all the range of things necessary – military action, humanitarian action, counter radicalization, security measures, all of the measures necessary to deal with the real threats that global Jihad presents to Canada.



Note, at the end of his answer after a photo op PM Harper asked to add to his answer realizing he had not mentioned Israel. My tape recording for this add on did not work so I cannot repeat it verbatim, but in essence he said that the Conservative party has stood with Israel and  its right to defend herself, and more of the same can be expected.


After having PM Harper's answer to my question typed up this past Sunday, I sent his complete answer to Rebecca  Parkinson of Jim Carr's campaign team asking them to forward it along to the Trudeau team in Ottawa for a response, or to provide a response if they wished . I was hoping to get a response before I sent out a new issue of the WJR by e-blast Friday, October 1.  (I took  a similar step when I sent Trudeau's answer about Israel and PA unilateralism to the Bateman team for a response a number of months ago). In this way, I have always tried to have a response from both Conservatives and Liberals on a given issue I have raised. I would have sent Harper's response to the Liberals sooner, but for the fact that it was Yom Kippur which delayed matters, and I didn't have Harper's answer typed up until late Friday last week. Since I do not work on Shabbat, I sent the answer to the Carr campaign on this past Sunday September 27 .


As of yesterday, October 1 at noon, I believed I would have a Liberal response to Mr. Harper's answer to my question. I received an email from Rebecca of the Jim Carr Campaign in the morning of October 1, saying " I have spoken to National re: the response and we intend to get you something by EOD [End of Day]. Will be in touch." However at 6:00 p.m. on October 1, Rebecca wrote back:  "Ottawa will be contacting you directly on this. If you need to go to print, please move ahead. They are not sure they will be able to provide a response."  At the time of writing this article,  I have not received a response  from the Trudeau team. Should I receive one in future I will update this article and send it out again.



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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.