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Canada’s new human-rights chief denies BDS support, anti-Jewish posts

“We have become aware of potentially troubling statements,” said Chantalle Aubertin, a spokesperson for Arif Virani, Canada’s federal Attorney General and Justice Minister.

Flag of Canada. Credit: Pixabay.
Flag of Canada. Credit: Pixabay.

A past appearance alongside an advocate for terrorism and comments in support of boycotting Israel has put Birju Dattani on the defensive as he prepares to start his new position as chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission on Aug. 8. He previously worked with the Yukon Human Rights Commission.

Chantalle Aubertin, a spokesperson for Arif Virani, Canada’s federal attorney general and justice minister, stated that “we are carefully reviewing these statements and discussing them with Mr. Dattani, as well as relevant stakeholders.”

Aubertin called it critical for the commission head to “maintain the confidence of all Canadians and to be seen as an impartial and fair judge of matters before them.”

In graduate school at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Dattani spoke at an “Israel Apartheid Week” event regarding the BDS movement against Israel. At a 2015 talk organized by the Muslim Students Association, he appeared with Adnan Khan, a member of the U.K.-designated terrorist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, the “Party of Liberation,” which advocates for restoring an Islamic caliphate, opposes the existence of Israel and has been banned in a number of countries, many of them in the Arab world.

Shimon Fogel, president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said Dattani “has directly associated with individuals and groups affiliated with listed terror entities and has a history of making highly troubling antisemitic statements.”

Social-media posts have shown troubling rhetoric, including comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, though some have reportedly been deleted.

“As an academic, I have discussed, often in great detail, the BDS movement. That being said, I have not personally or publicly endorsed the BDS movement,” he stated. “My current and previous roles require that I impartially defend the human rights of Canadians from all walks of life, backgrounds and lived experiences in line with Canadian law.”

He also called himself “wholly committed to combating antisemitism.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts
Jaime Kirzner-Roberts. Credit: Courtesy.

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, senior director of advocacy and policy at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, remains skeptical, saying that “this is yet another shameful example of the Canadian government’s failure to exercise due diligence when hiring someone for an official position. The newly appointed chief commissioner’s history of anti-Israel activism, which indicates a personal bias, may have serious implications for the Jewish community, especially at a time of rising antisemitism.”

She added being “not only concerned about the appointment itself but more fundamentally, about the process used to select this candidate and the fact that Dattani’s record of participation in anti-Israel and antisemitic activities did not apparently raise any red flags for those responsible for vetting him.”

FSWC has reached out to Virani to express its concerns and request an immediate investigation into not only Dattani’s activities but also the government’s vetting failures.

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