A motion proposed by Councillor Josh Colle condemning the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" was passed overwhelmingly by Toronto City Council last week on June 7. The vote tally was 26 to 7, in favor, but there was one 'no' vote that surprised many observers of Toronto municipal politics.
Ward 37 Councillor Michael Thompson is known to be one of the most intelligent and reasonable of Toronto's municipal politicians. It was a shock to many of his fellow councilors and others at City Hall when he voted against the condemnation of the hateful language used by anti-western, anti-capitalist and Islamist fanatics to slander and attempt to delegitimize the only genuine democracy in the middle east.
At a meeting of the City's Executive Committee last week, Councillor James Pasternak mentioned he too was shocked by Thompson's vote and that Thompson had told him the vote was made in error.
In a conversation I had with Councillor Thompson last Thursday afternoon, he confirmed that he indeed does condemn the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid" in the strongest terms and his vote against supporting the motion to that effect was a mistake. Thompson said the reason for his vote was because he was mislead by one of his Council colleagues.
Most City Council meetings last for many hours and are, for the most, part taken up by minor housekeeping issues, be it matters like zoning, whether a street gets speed bumps, if more money is allocated for tree trimming, etc. Councilors frequently come and go during sessions in order to attend business or for something as simple as going to the washroom - that's why on any given vote, there are frequently a number of absentee councilors even though they are at City Hall.
Thompson said he had just re-entered Council chambers after Colle's motion was put to the vote and he asked a colleague what the vote was. His fellow Councillor, who Thompson declined to name, led Thompson to believe it was one of those minor housekeeping matters and told the Scarborough representative "this is one you want to vote no on" knowing full well that Thompson held the opposite view.
Such is the sleazy, deceptive behavior of some municipal politicians, particularly those on the far left of Toronto's political spectrum. The six who voted against Colle's motion to condemn the hate speech were the original owner of the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid website, Kristyn Wong Tam, Gord Perks, Janet Davis, Mike Layton, the son of the former NDP leader, Sarah Doucette, and Maria Augimeri.
At the Executive Committee meeting on June 12 Councilor Thompson moved that the matter that was supposed to address the City's revised anti-Discrimination Policy should be deferred until September and the motion passed. This move also came a a surprise to many, since it would have been an opportunity to decisively address the issue of whether the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid or such groups in city funded events violated the city's policy and would preclude municipal funding for them.
Councillor Thompson said that the reason he wanted the issue deferred is that, despite the fact that the City Manager was directed to produce a revised policy and had a year to do so, the new policy was in no substantive way any different than the old one. He said that as it would have taken a great deal of Committee time to deal with the matter and there were a number of other issues before them, deferring it until a time it could be given sufficient seemed the best way to ensure the policy could be properly addressed.
Although Thompson did not discuss it directly, he acknowledged that another matter related to the City's revised anti-Discrimination policy that failed to adequately address the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was the apparent conflict of interest in the City Department charged with advising on the new document.
The City's Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights, which was primarily responsible for the revisions to the policy, is headed by Uzma Shakir, who has a long history of extreme anti-Zionist pronouncements. In addition to being a proponent of the use of Islamic Sharia Law in Ontario Family Court, Shakir has made radical, extremist statements in which she suggested that Muslim immigrants to Canada do not owe full loyalty to their new country because of the Canadian government's stance towards the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.Thomson said that he welcomes community input into how the new Anti-Discrimination Policy should look and encourages concerned citizens who live in Toronto to contact his office.
One simple way of making sure the new policy is effective would be to state that any term or agenda specifically condemned by City Council that undermines the values of tolerance and diversity would be deemed to be in violation of the City's anti-Discrimination policy.
Councillor Thompson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org