Local MP Mark Gerretsen meets with Muslim & Jewish community members

‘I am very fortunate to represent large Muslim and Jewish communities,’ Garretsen said

MP Mark Gerretsen responds to safety concerns from constituents.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

On May 30, a group of Muslim community members and members of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) attended a closed Zoom meeting with Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen. 

The meeting’s purpose was to allow community members to express their views on Palestine and the Canadian government’s lack of response to the recent escalated violence between Israel and Palestine.

The first speaker’s concern was directed towards the apparent lack of public messaging on the crisis in the Middle East from Gerretsen. 

The constituent highlighted that Gerretsen’s name was notably absent from a letter sent to Justin Trudeau by the Canadian-Palestinian Friendship Group, which was signed by 24 MPs and two Senators.

The letter discusses the need for the Canadian government to address human rights violations against Palestinians.

“There was never a request for me to sign that letter, because I am not a member of that particular friendship group. That is why my name does not appear,” Gerretsen responded.

Gerretsen went on to express concern about the recent increase in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism

“The racist actions that are being seen domestically are very alarming, and that is a grave concern. In Canada, we believe we can work out our differences through talk, and I am concerned by the rise in hate speech.”

Following this, a constituent brought up statements made by other politicians, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau’s statement of concern about the violence.

“If Marc Garneau says something, he is speaking on behalf of the Government of Canada, and I am a member of the governing party. I apologize if I didn’t retweet or re-post any of his messages,” Gerretsen said. 

A representative from IJV drew attention to discourse on defining anti-Semitism. The IJV endorses the Jerusalem Declaration of Anti-Semitism

“I am very fortunate to represent large Muslim and Jewish communities. We have had folks reach out supporting both sides on this matter. I am concerned about everyone’s safety, and I appreciate [the IJV member] attending and having this dialogue,” Gerretsen said in response.

Following this, another constituent asked if Gerretsen was “willing to accept that the forced occupation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is unacceptable.”

“I certainly don’t disagree […] that it's against international law,” Gerretsen said. 

Gerretsen concluded by saying he would bring up the constituents’ concerns and summarize them in a letter to be sent to the Minister of Global Affairs.

On May 31, MP Gerretsen published a statement on Facebook discussing the meeting.  

“I am extremely saddened by the loss of civilian life – the killing of innocent children and families is tragic and unacceptable. Canada must respond to the humanitarian crisis in this region to ensure that innocent lives are protected [...] I look forward to continuing to engage with our community on this important issue to ensure that the voices of Kingston and the Islands are represented in Parliament.” 

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