POLITICS

Jason Kenney Blasts Trudeau For Accusing Tories Of Stoking Anti-Muslim Prejudice

03/10/2015 12:47 EDT

A senior Conservative cabinet minister is firing back at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for accusing the Harper government of stoking prejudice against Muslims.

And Defence Minister Jason Kenney says it was "obscene" for Trudeau to "conflate" Canada's treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust with the government's opposition to the wearing of the niqab during citizenship ceremonies.

In a hard-hitting speech at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada in Toronto Monday night, Trudeau accused the Tories of using the same kind of rhetoric against Muslims that sparked other "dark episodes" in Canada's history.

The Liberal leader made reference to the "second-class citizenship" of aboriginal people, the Chinese head tax, the internment of Japanese, Ukrainian and Italian Canadians during the two world wars, and the "turning away" of boatloads of Jewish and Punjabi refugees.

The Liberal leader said some young Canadians can scarcely believe such events occurred in Canada.

"So we should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a 'none is too many' immigration policy toward Jews in the '30s and '40s, being used to raise fears against Muslims today," he said, referencing how Canada turned away Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

Trudeau again spoke out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vow to appeal a Federal Court ruling overturning a ban on the wearing of the niqab during citizenship ceremonies and the Tories' fundraising emails on the issue.

"It is nothing less than an attempt to play on people's fears and foster prejudice, directly toward the Muslim faith," Trudeau said.

"This is not the spirit of Canadian liberty, my friends. It is the spirit of the Komagata Maru. Of the St. Louis. Of 'none is too many.'

"Canada is where a million Muslims live and thrive in a free and open, secular democracy. The world needs more of that, not less of it."

The Komagata Maru was a ship carrying Muslim, Hindu and Sikh passengers, who were denied entry into Canada in 1914. The St. Louis was a German ocean liner whose Jewish passengers were denied entry in 1939.

The Liberal leader also spoke of the need to "strike the right balance" between security and personal freedom in light of ongoing terrorism threats. Trudeau announced weeks ago that Liberals will vote for the government’s new anti-terror legislation, but amend Bill C-51 if they win the next election.

On Tuesday, Trudeau's remarks were blasted by Kenney, who has been credited with helping his party make inroads with the Muslim community during his time as immigration minister.

Kenney took to Twitter to remind "Justin" that the Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenize King admitted just 5,000 Jews between 1939 and 1945, while the current Tory government has brought in 300,000 Muslims since 2006.

Yet, Trudeau was also critical of King in his speech Monday, saying the Liberal legend ordered internments because they were popular.

"In fact, he did it despite evidence from the RCMP and Defence that they were unwarranted," Trudeau said of King. "He did it because people were afraid."

Kenney also accused Trudeau of comparing the government's position on the niqab debate to an earlier anti-Semitic policy.

And, in a series of tweets, Kenney lauded the diversity of the Conservative party and highlighted other historical "injustices" for which Tory governments have tried to make amends.

Kenney also took a shot at Ontario Liberals who opposed faith-based funding for schools in the 2007 provincial election, suggesting they ran a "dog whistle campaign."

In a speech to the Manning Networking Conference last Saturday, Kenney attempted to dispel suggestions that Conservatives are feeding into Islamophobia in light of Canada’s mission against ISIL and attacks by Islamic extremists, at home and abroad.

Kenney said peace-loving Muslims are paying a heavy price because of jihadists.

"The vast majority of the victims of this dystopian vision of the caliphate from Nigeria to the Philippines are innocent, peaceful Muslim people who simply want to raise their families in peace and security," he said.

"And we stand with them, we stand with them around the world, we stand with them in Iraq today, we stand in defence of the vast majority of Muslims who reject this cult of violence. Canadians are in solidarity with them."

Kenney Involved In Recent Twitter Controversies

The next day, however, Kenney posted a tweet that would later land him in some hot water.

The first, in honour of International Women's Day, thanked the Canadian Forces for fighting the "ISIL campaign to enslave women and girls." One striking image showed women in burkas chained together.

But The Ottawa Citizen reported the women in that image were actually performing a ceremonial reenactment in honour of the prophet Mohammad's grandson, Hussein, and his family.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims later denounced the tweet as "corrosive."

Emails uncovered by Postmedia earlier this month confirm Kenney also angered members of the Canadian Forces in October when he was the first to tweet about the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. According to the report, fellow soldiers learned about Cirillo's death through the media, not the military.

In question period on Tuesday, Trudeau asked the prime minister if he reprimanded Kenney for his social media follies. Harper responded that Kenney, who became defence minister last month, was "new to his portfolio."

Later, Trudeau told reporters that Kenney has long been considered a capable minister. The Liberal leader said the tweets show the government "has no problems using fear and division as a political tool."

With files from The Canadian Press, Althia Raj

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