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Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Minister accuses Liberal MPs of using Nazi salute

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Joe Oliver

A Conservative minister last week accused two Liberal MPs of giving Prime Minister Stephen Harper a Nazi salute in the House of Commons, but the legislators say it never happened.

In a June 18 statement, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver claimed MP Wayne Easter, who represents the riding of Malpeque in PEI, and Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry made the gesture on June 14 in Parliament.

Oliver, who is Jewish, said he didn’t initially come forward publicly with his complaint “as a matter of courtesy, because their gesture followed a very long day of votes,” he said.

“Also, I did not mention the Liberal Party by name, since I did not believe then and do not believe now that their behaviour would be acceptable to the members of that party, and in particular its interim leader [Bob Rae], nor indeed to any party in the House.”

Both Easter and Fry deny ever giving the salute and said they were insulted by Oliver’s accusation. “I never gave a Nazi salute in my life,” Easter said in a telephone interview. “The thing that bugs me the most is being falsely accused. It’s a case of seeing something one didn’t see.”

What complicates the matter for him, Easter added, is that he considers Oliver a “wonderful” guy and believes he wouldn’t say something so controversial unless he truly believed he saw it happen.

Easter said he’s worked with Jewish groups for years and that in 2002, he put Hamas on the list of outlawed terrorist groups in Canada when he was solicitor general.

Fry was more outraged in her comments.

“Let me be absolutely clear: I did not make the gesture attributed to me by [Oliver],” she wrote in an email.

“This gesture represents such a heinous era in our global history and carries such painful memories for so many people that I am appalled and saddened that the minister would accuse of me of such an act.”

She said she’s fought “passionately” against hate, antisemitism and bigotry throughout her career and has worked closely with Canadian Jewish Congress in the past to “combat all forms of antisemitism and neo-Nazi activity.”

Requests to Oliver for further comment or clarification were not returned by The CJN ’s deadline.

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In related news, Papineau Liberal MP Justin Trudeau tweeted June 15 that he felt Harper and the Conservative Party don’t “believe in ‘tikkun olam.’”

The comment prompted Conservative MP for York Centre Mark Adler to rise in the House on June 19 and condemn Trudeau’s statement.

“On this side of the House, under the leadership of this prime minister, this government acts everyday to uphold the Canadian values of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” Adler said.  “Furthermore, considering the many awards and accolades that [Harper] has received from the Jewish community and other humanitarian organizations, I find this statement outrageous.”

Adler and Oliver are two of the three Jewish MPs in Parliament. Liberal Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler is the third.

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