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Gay MP Mario Silva works to combat anti-Semitism

New committee's findings could apply to anti-gay hate crimes, he says

A new Parliamentary committee has been struck to look at the issue of anti-Semitism in Canada, and the panel’s vice-chair, gay Liberal MP Mario Silva, says the findings could be applied to other hate crimes.

The panel stems from the London summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), to which Canada sent the largest delegation.

Silva will be the vice-chair of the new Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA), which launched on Tue, Jun 2. Silva will also chair the CPCCA’s Inquiry Panel.

“The problem of anti-Semitism is one of great concern to all Canadians,” says Silva says. “Our Canadian values are eroded when people are unable to live without fear when exercising their fundamental rights to religious worship, education, expression and full participation in society.”

Anti-Semitism is experiencing a global resurgence, according to many sources. Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, someone generally given to understatement, recently stated that “I have not felt the way I feel now since 1945. I feel there are reasons for us to be concerned, even afraid.”

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, co-chair of the ICCA, echoed these concerns.

“Silence is not an option,” says Cotler. “The time has come not only to sound the alarm, but to act. For as history has taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews.”

The CPCCA, comprised of MPs from all four political parties represented in the House of Commons, will use its inquiry panel to accept written submissions on the state of anti-Semitism in Canada, and conduct hearings based on those submissions.

While there may be a global resurgence, it’s not clear if that is necessarily the case in Canada — something the inquiry panel aims to find out.

“The United Kingdom panel, which is largely serving as the model for what we’re doing here, found that there was, through the various police forces, an inadequate means of documenting such incidents,” says Conservative MP Scott Reid, the CPCCA’s chair.

“First of all I believe strongly in human rights and of course the protection of minority rights,” says Silva as to why he chose to get involved in the panel. “When you see communities under attack, you need to be more active and it’s true that when somebody says today it’s the Jewish community, tomorrow it could be the gay and lesbian community. In fact, the gay and lesbian community has been attacked for many years.

“I think involving myself as a member of Parliament who is also gay, who also knows the issues of minority rights and the fact that this can have an impact if it’s not stopped. If somebody doesn’t address it, if people don’t speak out, then it just continues.”

While this particular inquiry is focused on anti-Semitism, Silva believes the lessons could be applied to other hate crimes in Canada.

“I think there’s opportunity here,” says Silva. “We all learn from each other, and as minority groups who are under attack, we are constantly learning from each other. We learn from each other’s struggles, we learn from each other’s successes.”