Human Interest
3 min

Mario Silva on the anti-Semitism hearings

Rounding off my series of catching up with our gay and lesbian MPs, I spoke to Liberal MP Mario Silva this morning about what he's been busy doing.

Q: What did you get up to over the winter break?
A: There were a few things. One was the big event that happened at the 519 here in Toronto in relation to Uganda. I attended that event with Glen Murray, who’s running as a candidate in the area provincially now. It was very well attended, and it’s a very important issue for a lot of gay people, and I mentioned the fact that if in fact the law was adopted, then they should be suspended from their membership in the Commonwealth. That was one thing that I did. There was a lot, especially around Christmas and New Year's, there’s lots of major activities here in the riding, in terms of all the different cultural clubs. There are a lot of different cultural communities here, so there were a lot of events to go to, so I did as much of it as I could go to. And my partner and I went away for about a week, so it was good. We spent some time together, and now we’re back again – I was in Ottawa for most of the week, I came back [to the riding] last night and then I’m back [to Ottawa] again next week.

Q: What are some of the sessions that you’re participating in during this three-week roundtable series that the caucus is putting on?
A: I’ve been attending as many of them as I can, and I’ll be attending the one on poverty on Monday, but I’ve also been busy as well. [Last] Monday I was pretty much busy all day with the hearings as well as the inquiry of the Anti-Semitism [Coalition] because that’s still going on. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with the secretariat, because we have one more hearing on the 8th, which is the one we have to wrap up, but the other factor so that we’re planning a conference for some time in November. So there’s a lot of work to be done on planning for that, so we’ve been having a lot of meetings for that – myself, Scott Reid and also Irwin Cotler. That issue has been taking a lot of my time because just about every day, I have emails and calls from the secretariat on things that need to be done, and action plans, because I’m co-chairing this with Scott Reid, and everything falls on our shoulders – everything from fundraising, to speakers, to conference halls. It’s a major event so there’s a lot of work to be done.

Q: How have the hearings been going?
A: They’ve been going very well. We’ve gotten some really high-calibre people, so I’m very pleased about that. We’ve got a lot of experts in the field – we had the universities, and on the 8th, we’re bringing in the RCMP and people from different policing divisions to hear also from law enforcement. Minister Vic Toews has been invited – he hasn’t said if he can make it, but he’s been invited. So it should be a very important conference that will be taking place.

Q: The last time I posted about the hearings, I got some comments back from people who were concerned about campus anti-Semitism, and concerns that any discussion is being quashed by people saying that it’s anti-Semitic, and they’re trying to contest that. So I’m wondering how that issue is coming out in these hearings?
A: This is something that we obviously have to address in our report. It’s been raised several times, and that’s going to be something that we have to address. Those who raised the issue that there is genuine fear and concern about what’s taking place on campus and don’t feel uncomfortable at all, and feel intimidated when there are these “Israeli Apartheid weeks,” and those who feel that it’s a question of free speech and that it’s not anti-Semitic. These issues have to somehow be addressed in our report, and I think we’ve got some good information and hopefully the report will shed some light into this issue as well.

Q: Any other plans for the prorogation period?
A: We have work to do, and I have things to do in the riding, and I have to come up to Ottawa, and so we’ll just keep on working as best we can.
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