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Mayoral Candidates Struggle To Grasp Root Causes Of Antisemitism In Winnipeg

Only Jenny Motkaluk denounced BDS and left-wing antisemitism

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From the left, Winnipeg Mayoral candidates Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk (speaking with moderator Jason Gisser), Glen Murray and Robert-Falcon Ouellette. (Photo: John Ethan)

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Six top candidates seeking to be the next Mayor were invited to a forum hosted by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg on Monday Oct. 3. The awkward format did not allow for extended responses or for any candidate to shine, and as a result the moderator scored the loudest applause.

All six struggled to various degrees with the specific questions about the Jewish community, and a few ducked answering some parts of the questions entirely. When it came to responding to the questions of secular policy, the discussion had some sharp moments and general policy proposals about policing, for instance, were occasionally framed as Jewish community concerns to try to reach out to the audience.

Jenny Motkaluk, who finished second in the 2018 civic election, drew the number 1 position to answer the initial question, which focused on “As mayor how would you best combat the rise of antisemitic incidents in Winnipeg?”

Motkaluk, who grew up across the street from the Rosh Pina synagogue in Winnipeg’s North End, replied:

“Effective policing is a very important element of public safety for everybody, including the Jewish members of Winnipeg’s community. But my greater concern is that some of the antisemitic tendencies and some of the antisemitic narrative that we’re hearing is given rise to, through things like equity policies and critical race theory (CRT) – and I reject those things because they are nothing more than a disguise for discrimination.”

She added that, “We need to make sure that our city administration is not infected with critical race theory or other equity policies.”

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Motkaluk also had a unique reply to the second question relating to Jewish concerns, about how candidates “view the problem of anti-Zionism”- and if they would, as Mayor, adopt the IHRA definition.

While she did not address the IHRA aspect, Motkaluk stated,

“I also believe that Israel has a right to exist and I’m surprised and a bit sad that in some rooms it takes some courage to say that. I reject BDS- and I am absolutely surprised that we have allowed woke culture to infect our narrative that we are uncertain about our core values anymore… As mayor of Winnipeg we will absolutely celebrate this country and everyone that is in this city.”

None of the other five candidates mentioned threats to Jewish safety that come from the far-left such as BDS, equity or CRT policies. And only one, social enterpriser Shaun Loney, mentioned any other specific source of a threat, as he referred to “white supremacy” three times. However, he did not link it to any Winnipeg incidents of Jew-hate.

Loney told the audience he had listened to the audio of the 2021 Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism “and I learned a lot by listening” and that he supported a national discussion at that level. Prior to the forum, Loney mentioned to TheJ.ca that his contact with the Jewish community had been limited, as he is focused on core-area activism, and during the forum he admitted he had not come across the issue of anti-Zionism before. Loney has committed to elaborating on his views of left-wing antisemitism with us in the future.   

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Two city councillors are also seeking the Mayor’s seat and each represents a wing of the conservative political establishment. 

One-term councilman Kevin Klein has a number of Jewish residents in his ward and as a former media executive was smooth in his delivery, focusing largely on crime and incompetent city management. In response to the questions, he said he “would be honoured to attend the (Mayors Summit) event” and reiterated, “My priority is public safety and antisemitism is an issue of public safety, period. It can not be tolerated in our city and I will not tolerate it as Mayor of Winnipeg.”

As for anti-Zionism, Klein referenced his mentor and dedicated Zionist, the late businessman Arnold Frieman, saying he will invite the community to meet with council as a whole “to listen to learn from the community so we can move together in solidarity” to deal with it.

In his opening statement, two term councillor Scott Gillingham firmly pronounced his support for the state of Israel. His response to the questions were, “As mayor I would use my platform and voice to denounce every incident of antisemitism.”

The former pastor referred to having denounced swastika flags that appeared last summer in Winnipeg, but did not elaborate why, as a city councilor he did not denounce the attack on a pro-Israel rally in May 2021, and it was not clear who was bearing the hate symbol.

On the second question, he repeated his support for “Israel’s right to exist as a nation and its right to self-determination… Whether this is the best definition of antisemitism or another… when conflicts in other parts of the world that people leave from and come to Winnipeg, here there needs to be dialogue.”  

Winnipeg’s city election has a former runner-up, Jenny Motkaluk, and two council members vying for the top job – former business executive Kevin Klein and long-time Finance committee chair, Scott Gillingham. (Photo: John Ethan)

Heading into the forum, Glen Murray’s campaign had hit rocky waters. Formerly a Mayor of Winnipeg from 1998-2004, a CBC investigation revealed he had been fired in 2018 from the job he had left the Ontario cabinet to take on. The allegations went beyond Murray’s legendary aggressive “management style”, and veered into abusive and harassing sexual language, and an alleged sexual assault on the Alberta Director of The Pembina Institute in Calgary.

Murray leaned heavily into name-dropping and his role as a champion of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights when it was established here about 20 years ago. 

“The changes I would like to make to the police service will open up a lot more capacity to improve the hate and violence units which are really critical,” he said, mentioning  his own experiences with hate as a young gay activist in the 1980’s in Winnipeg. He did not mention the term antisemitism but added, “I will never abandon the Jewish community and I will stand with you all the time.”

As for the second question about anti-Zionism, he again lauded the Aspers and the Museum and claimed “we should be starting this discussion about these definitions there.”

“We’ve got the ability… to become the leading human rights center where we have no antisemitism. But we’ve got to weave these definitions together and take the time to create a charter of human rights that includes everybody.” Murray is apparently unaware that the far-left woke ideology that caters to the anti-Zionist and antisemitic Nakba narrative, has already infiltrated the Museum. Thej.ca covered that story in 2021: Canadian Human Rights Museum CEO Told “Just Say No” To Anti-Israel Nakba Narrative.

(L-R) Jewish Federation of Winnipeg PR Director Adam Levy, JFW president Gustavo Zentner, candidates Scott Gillingham and Kevin Klein, moderator Jason Gisser, Federation CEO Elain Goldstine and candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette posed after the mayoral forum. Candidates Jenny Motkaluk, Shuan Loney and Glen Murray were unavailable. (Photo: John Ethan)

Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a former federal Liberal MP is taking his second run at becoming Mayor of Winnipeg after a 3rd place showing in 2014. He spoke first of his support for Jewish MP Anthony Housefather of Montreal, who helped guide caucus on issues of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. He stated, “I will adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism” and mentioned his trip to Israel where he met with members of the Knesset.

Unrelated to questions about the Jewish community, ‘RFO’ launched a controversial barb at the very end of the forum:

“No matter what you do at the end of the day, you need a moral leader who will stand up for what is right in our city, that there are certain actions which are unacceptable in our city and there are times as a leader you must say the truth and speak that truth. And so I speak it here today and I hope people understand what it is I’m talking about because it’s certainly unacceptable for us to be here on this stage all together.”

After the forum, Ouellette clarified to TheJ.ca he was referring to Glen Murray.

“He should not be there. It’s an indirect way of saying what needs to be said… If you’re going to be exercising leadership for a city, you have to have strong moral leadership.”

He concluded, “Terrible leaders should not ever ever, ever again be in positions of authority because it leads to terrible failures of systems.”

Ron East is an educator, community leader and public speaker. He’s spent a decade teaching in the Jewish and public school systems and spent a significant amount of time in various leadership roles in the not-for-profit sector including Executive Director of Football Manitoba and the Manitoba chapter of CFHU. Ron has published numerous newsletters, award winning magazines and online publications and is currently the Publishing Director of TheJ.Ca.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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