Ottawa slams CUPE's proposed boycott of Israel
Published Monday, February 23, 2009 5:21PM EST
OTTAWA - The Harper government is accusing one of Ontario's biggest unions of taking an "intolerant" stance against Israel.
Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney says a CUPE Ontario resolution urging a boycott of Israeli universities is intolerant and contributes to a bad atmosphere on Canadian campuses.
He acknowledges there's nothing illegal about the resolution, but claims it's part of a growing wave "singling out and targeting the Jewish democratic state of Israel for opprobrium."
A meeting of the public-sector union in Windsor on the weekend approved the resolution as a response to the recent Israeli assault on Gaza.
Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario, at one point likened Israeli attacks on a Gaza university to Nazi attacks on educational institutions.
He later apologized for what he called a poor choice of analogy.
Kenney criticized such remarks.
"The premise of these things seems to be that the Jewish people shouldn't have their own country," he said Monday.
"Underneath that, there's a certain kind of dangerous intolerance which is not consistent with Canada's best values."
He says the CUPE resolution has an unfortunate effect on campuses and suggests the attitude may have helped spark a recent incident at Toronto's York University, in which anti-Israel slogans were shouted at Jewish students.
"This reinforces the whole, extreme, unbalanced rhetoric about Israel as an apartheid state, Israel as a racist state -- to quote the Canadian Arab Federation -- this creates an opinion environment which makes it acceptable to start shouting at Jewish kids who probably also happen to support Israel.
"It's creating the opinion environment which has become very, very uncomfortable for Jewish students on many of our campuses."
Kenney says there's nothing the federal government can do about CUPE and he suggests the union leadership may be out of step with the membership.