Manitoba

Mayor calls for removal of American activist from Winnipeg panel

Mayor's office says Linda Sarsour promulgates hate

Posted: April 23, 2019

Linda Sarsour, seen demonstrating against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, is an outspoken critic of the state of Israel and a supporter of Palestinian rights (The Associated Press)

Mayor Brian Bowman is calling for the removal of U.S. activist Linda Sarsour from a speaking engagement planned for Winnipeg on Friday.

The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the Canadian Muslim Women's Institute had booked Sarsour, one of the co-chairs of the Women's March, to speak at an event called Sorry Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice, marking the council's 100th anniversary.

The event had been scheduled for April 26 at the Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre at Garden City Collegiate. It was then rescheduled for the Ukrainian Labour Temple.

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Bowman's office issued a statement Tuesday morning calling for Sarsour's removal from the event.

"Mayor Bowman does not feel it is appropriate to provide this individual a public platform to further propagate anti-Semitic views and hate," the mayor's office said in a statement. 

At city hall on Tuesday afternoon, Bowman said many groups made the same request to the social planning council and said he met with the social planning council privately.

She has continually attacked the foundation of the state of Israel's right to exist. - Mayor Brian Bowman on Linda Sarsour

"It's less about the speaker than the social planning council providing that platform and the message it sends to the Jewish community and the community as a whole," said Bowman, who said it's deeply troubling that Sarsour challenges Israel's right to exist.

"She has continually attacked the foundation of the state of Israel's right to exist," the mayor said, accusing Sarsour of playing "racialized identity politics."

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The mayor made his statements flanked by representatives of the the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, B'nai Brith Canada and other Winnipeg organizations.

Sarsour is an outspoken critic of the state of Israel and supporter of Palestinian rights. She's faced accusations of anti-Semitism due to her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Sarsour has also won awards, including a Champion of Change award from U.S. President Barack Obama's administration. She has also condemned anti-Semitism on the part of other U.S. activists and apologized in 2018 for being too slow to condemn racism.

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Mayor Brian Bowman is calling for the removal of U.S. activist Linda Sarsour from a speaking engagement planned for Winnipeg on Friday.  2:08

B'nai Brith Canada initially called on the Winnipeg event organizers to rescind its invitation to Sarsour, saying she's not welcome in the city.

"She's used her platform to promulgate views that are highly problematic, including charges of dual loyalty to Jews who are considered sufficiently too supportive of the state of Israel," Ran Ukashi, national director of the League for Human Rights at B'nai Brith Canada, said in March.

On Tuesday, Ukashi also accused Sarsour of sharing a stage with terrorists and downplaying acts of anti-Semitism. 

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg executive director Kate Kehler said Sarsour was chosen for the event because of her track record in building bridges between groups.

Kehler said Sarsour would not have been invited if she promoted hate.

"We looked at her history, and we looked at the fact that she does a tremendous amount of experience in building movements that have been effective and achieved policy change," said Kehler, referring to U.S. police stop-and-frisk policies.

She said Sarsour has enjoyed the support of some Jewish groups in Winnipeg and the U.S.