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Trudeau reaches out to CIJA to affirm support for Israel

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Justin Trudeau meets with Jewish leaders at Shaare Zion
Justin Trudeau meets with Jewish leaders at Shaare Zion

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau reached out to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) to reaffirm his support for Israel and his willingness to discuss broader social issues.

In a 10-minute phone call Nov. 2, before being officially sworn in Nov. 4, that CIJA chair David Cape described as “very warm and very friendly,” Trudeau expressed his commitment to continue his strong relationship with CIJA.

“He reaffirmed his expectation for the government to work closely with the Jewish community and thanked us for all the work we had done,” Cape said.

Trudeau also expressed that “his government would continue the tradition of multipartisan support for Israel,” Cape said. “But he said he specifically was hoping we could work together on a broader range of issues.”

One issue of particular interest to CIJA is Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, which Trudeau had supported when it was introduced by the previous Conservative government. During the election campaign, Trudeau said he intended to amend the bill.

In a presentation to Parliament last spring, CIJA affirmed its support for the bill and suggested ways that oversight of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy agency, should be improved and strengthened.

Cape said he reiterated this point to Trudeau Nov. 2.

CIJA is also deeply interested in participating in the national discussion on physician-assisted dying, and Cape said he discussed that with Trudeau as well.

The issue is sure to be debated in the House of Commons soon, after a Supreme Court decision last February gave the government one year to implement new legislation.

CIJA recently emailed members of the community asking for opinions on the issue and heard “passionately expressed thoughts,” on the subject, Cape said.

“I said it would be important for us to engage on a number of these social issues and I was hopeful that the Jewish community could be a springboard for his government to create broader support across the populations for this type of social issue,” Cape said.

The current wave of terrorism in Israel was not discussed, but Trudeau “expressed the hope there would be peace ultimately in the region,” Cape said.

Cape said he concluded the conversation by introducing Trudeau to the Hebrew word tikvah, meaning hope, a theme that Trudeau repeatedly referred to during his campaign, and one that has great resonance for the Jewish community as well, Cape said.

While there had been some concerns expressed during the campaign about whether Trudeau would be as supportive of the Jewish community as former prime minister Stephen Harper had been, Cape said that that is not the case.

“I got every sense that there was complete willingness from the prime minister-designate to have that dialogue and to work as closely with our community as had been in the past.”