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Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather named to new antisemitism adviser role

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says he is “looking forward to making a real difference” as the government’s new special adviser on Jewish community relations and antisemitism.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced his appointment to the role today, saying Housefather will advise the prime minister and cabinet and work with the Jewish community.

Housefather, who is Jewish, has been outspoken about the rise in antisemitism in Canada since the current conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October.

The appointment comes four months Housefather considered leaving the Liberal caucus after an NDP motion on the Israel-Gaza war left him feeling intense anger and isolated within his party.

Following that period of reflection he said he would stay as a Liberal and that Trudeau had asked him to work with the government to address the “massive” issue of antisemitism in Canada right now.

Housefather would go on to help start a parliamentary committee study into antisemitism on university campuses in May.

Housefather himself has been the target of antisemitic hatred including earlier this week when posters were taped to signposts in Montreal calling him a Nazi, equating Zionism to terrorism and telling him to “get out of Canada.”

Housefather welcomed his appointment which will include working with Deborah Lyons, the federal government’s special envoy on combating antisemitism.

“Jewish Canadians need to feel safe in our communities, on campus and in Canadian life,” he said in a statement.

The original NDP motion included a demand that Canada officially recognize the state of Palestine.

Housefather called that wording one-sided, and the motion caused significant division among members of Parliament including within the Liberal caucus.

The motion that eventually passed was revised to be very close to existing Canadian foreign policy, including a recognition that Palestinian statehood would be part of a two-state solution within the Middle East peace process.

Wording was added to call for Hamas to lay down its weapons and clearly identify the militant group as a recognized terrorist organization. The motion also included a call for Canada to stop approving transfers of arms exports to Israel.

At the time, Housefather acknowledged the last-minute changes improved the motion but said he could not support it in part because the changes came so late in the process they were not fully debated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2024.

The Canadian Press