A Canadian government agency has pledged to reform the process it uses to award contracts to community anti-racism projects after having to sever ties with a group accused of antisemitism.
Canadian Heritage cancelled a $122,000 contract for anti-racism projects with the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) in September after the allegations surfaced.
In August, B’nai Brith Canada called for an independent review of anti-racism seminars funded by the government after uncovering new evidence of antisemitic content by the CMAC.
B’nai Brith pointed out that the group’s funding was cut after “virulently antisemitic and racist tweets” by CMAC consultant Laith Marouf came to light. But by the time that its contract was suspended, CMAC had already run half of the six training seminars that were stipulated by its government funding.
At the time, B’nai Brith demanded an “urgent independent review” after uncovering further troubling evidence “over antisemitism” linked to the CMAC.
B’nai Brith asked Canada’s antisemitism envoy Irwin Cotler to advise the government on an independent review at a meeting, which Colter agreed to take on.
Since that time, the government has tried to recoup the money given to CMAC but has not been able to do so, said Mala Khanna, a Canadian Heritage associate deputy minister, the Globe and Mail reported.
“It would be possible for the minister to take legal action,” Khanna told a parliamentary committee on Monday. But she added the ministry had not taken that step.
Khanna explained that the vetting process for new contracts has been changed. Groups will have to promise in writing they will not encourage hate or discrimination to quality for funding, she said.
The minister will have additional powers to quickly end a contract if the stipulations are not followed. All staff involved in the contracting process have also been through antisemitism and anti-racism training, she noted.
The new vetting process will also involve a review of the social media accounts of the staff of organizations that ask for government funds.
“Racism, hate and discrimination would make you ineligible for government funding, and requiring applicants to attest upfront themselves that they or anyone that is associated with the project will not engage in hate,” Khanna said. “I think those are important lessons that we’ve learned.”
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Michael Levitt urged the agency’s staff to undergo more advanced training so they can have a better understanding of antisemitism.
“While we appreciate that Canadian Heritage has implemented new processes to prevent organizations and individuals who espouse antisemitic and racist views from receiving government funding, this can only be effective under certain conditions,” Levitt said in a statement, according to the Globe and Mail.
Members of parliament also weighed in on the controversy during the committee meeting, with NDP MP Peter Julian slamming the government for being slow in taking action.
“The concerns are very legitimate, and the fact this antisemitism was funded by the government, by the taxpayers, I find unbelievable,” he said.