October 25, 2007
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw ... holiday cards?
It is not easy these days to be a satirist, particularly a political satirist. By the time you imagine a far-out scenario with fantastical dialogue, the morning paper reports your hilarious takeoff as straight news.
We owe the following report to B'nai B'rith Canada, which regularly disseminates a review of Canadian parliamentary proceedings of interest to its constituents.
Some of the remarks from the Oct. 17-18 proceedings have been compressed, to protect the dignity of the House of Commons.
Background note from B'nai B'rith Canada: Following the Prime Minister's Speech from the Throne, the House of Commons returned for its second session. Amongst the very first issues raised was the prime minister having sent Rosh Hashanah greeting cards to Jewish Canadians.
Mrs. Susan Kadis (Thornhill, Liberal Party): Mr. Speaker, a number of my constituents were recipients of mysterious Rosh Hashanah greetings from the prime minister. It was a mystery because they had no idea they were on such a government mailing list. One constituent, Michelle Kofman, wants to know two things: how does the prime minister know her religious affiliation and how did his office get her personal information?
Hon. Jason Kennedy (secretary of state, multiculturalism and Canadian identity, Conservative Party): Mr. Speaker, all members of this House, I suspect, send holiday greetings around the time of Christmas to millions of Canadians on publicly available lists. We make no apology for doing the same thing with Canada's Jewish community to celebrate their important High Holidays as well. We believe, unlike the Liberals, in multiculturalism and celebrating all of our cultural communities' holidays and important dates.
Mrs. Kadis: Why is the government compiling lists of Canadians according to their religious and ethnic affiliation?
Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Speaker, I promise the member opposite that if she sends me a Christmas card, I am not going to launch an investigation.
Mrs. Kadis: My constituents, Mrs. Faulkner and Mrs. Donin, want an explanation. Both of their names mysteriously appeared on the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) list to receive Rosh Hashanah greetings. But neither is Jewish. They want to know how they were identified with a religious affiliation they do not hold and why there is such a list.
Mr. Kennedy: I am sorry to hear that she did not enter into the happiness of the Rosh Hashanah new year.... Before she answers that, I would like her to tell us whether she has ever sent out Rosh Hashanah cards, or other Liberals have, to members of the Jewish community.
Mrs. Kadis: Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their privacy to be protected, not exploited.... How did their names get placed on the list? The PMO could not have received their names from public lists as they are not constituents of the Jewish faith.
Mr. Kennedy: Mr. Speaker, I understand why the member (Mrs. Kadis) did not want to answer my question. Perhaps it is because I received an e-mail this morning from a constituent of hers, Mr. Arthur Burke, which says: "I received a Rosh Hashanah card from my MP, the MP for Thornhill (Mrs. Kadis). I don't know from where she received my address or how she knew my religious affiliation.... We know that Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, but it seems for that member it is the high holiday for hypocrisy."
Hon. Garth Turner (Halton, Liberal): Mr. Speaker, the secretary of state for....
Some honorable Members: Oh, Oh!
The Speaker: Order, please. I know members on both sides seem to disagree on this point, but we have to have some order in the House so we can proceed with the discussion.
Mr. Turner: Mr. Speaker, we are here to represent people.... Conservative members of Parliament have a party database in which is entered the private information of individual Canadians.
Will the prime minister apologize for an unethical invasion of Canadians' privacy?