Mélanie Joly’s office upset over Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis and preacher Charles McVety’s plan to host Israeli minister
Joly’s office learned about Amichai Chikli’s planned trip to Canada from other Liberal MPs and not through normal diplomatic channels. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly's office is upset with Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis and Canadian preacher Charles McVety's plan to host Israeli minister Amichai Chikli at an event on Parliament Hill next week. Other Liberal MPs raised questions about it when they received an invite to an event with Chikali, who is a long-time ally of Mcvety. ChikLI is Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs, a portfolio dedicated to strengthening ties between Israel and Jewish communities around the world. He has also attracted his own spotlight this week for backing Twitter boss Elon Musk's attacks against businessman George Soros, which have been widely condemned as antisemitic. The event is being billed as a Jerusalem Day celebration, a holiday in which Israel commemorates the unification of East and West Jerusalem after the Six-Day War.
Published : a week ago by Stephanie Levitz in Politics
OTTAWA — Events featuring an Israeli cabinet minister alongside controversial Canadian preacher Charles McVety and a Conservative MP are ruffling feathers in Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s office.
Joly’s office only learned about Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli’s planned trip to Canada from other Liberal MPs, who raised questions about it when they received an invite to an event with Chikli on Parliament Hill next week.
Normally, visits by foreign lawmakers are arranged through the Global Affairs department or official parliamentary friendship groups, but the Ottawa event was organized via a third group: the unofficial Israel Allies Caucus, run by Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis.
She’s a long-time ally of McVety, who is hosting his own event with Chikli at the Canada Christian College near Toronto.
“We have great concerns about this visit as facilitated by Leslyn Lewis,” Maeva Proteau, a spokesperson for Joly, told the Star.
“Of all the inspiring, hard-working people in Canada they could have arranged the Israeli minister to meet with, the Conservative party has chosen to highlight an individual dubbed ‘one of the most publicly and vocally homophobic men in Ontario.’”
Chikli is Israel’s minister for diaspora affairs, a portfolio dedicated to strengthening ties between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
The current Israeli government, a hard-right coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu has had challenges building a consensus of support in the West.
Last March thousands took to the street in Israel to condemn his proposals to limit the powers of the Supreme Court, a move viewed by the U.S. and Canada too as a potential threat to the rule of law.
But Chikli has also attracted his own spotlight. This week, he made headlines for backing Twitter boss Elon Musk’s attacks against businessman George Soros, a puzzling stance for some as Musk’s comments were widely condemned as antisemitic.
Soros is often cited in antisemitic conspiracy theories as being responsible for various world events.
“As Israel’s minister who’s entrusted on combating anti-Semitism, I would like to clarify that the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli citizens see Elon Musk as an amazing entrepreneur and a role model,” Chikli said.
McVety’s event is being billed as a Jerusalem Day celebration, a holiday in which Israel commemorates the unification of East and West Jerusalem after the Six-Day War.
“Israel is under attack and anti-Semitism is growing. It is important that we take time from our busy schedules to stand with Israel,” the event announcement reads.
“It will be thrilling to participate and experience hundreds of Christians and Jews, standing shoulder to shoulder, celebrating peace and security for Jerusalem and all of Israel.”
McVety was once a close ally of Ontario Premier Doug Ford; the quote Joly’s office used to describe him as homophobic came from Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne when she blasted Ford for attempting to grant McVety’s college full university status.
Ford and McVety have not been close since that effort failed.
McVety has been repeatedly criticized for homophobic and Islamophobic comments. A decade ago his television show was pulled off the air after complaints.
Last year, he was named one of Israel’s “Top 50 Christian Allies” in the world by an organization called Israel Allies, a network of mostly Christian politicians who are staunch supporters of Israel.
Lewis — whose bids for leadership of the Conservative party were backed by McVety and a network of evangelical churches — started a Canadian branch of the group earlier this year.
Canada Christian College, Israel Allies Canada, its U.S. arm as well as Chikli’s office did not return questions from the Star about how it was that the minister got on their invite list. Israel’s embassy in Ottawa also did not reply to a request for comment.
In a statement, Lewis said her event is non-partisan.
“I learned of the Minister’s planned visit to Canada and welcomed his offer to participate in our celebration of the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel, a non-partisan event open to all Parliamentarians,” she said.
“Like other Members of Parliament, including members from the Liberal and New Democrat caucuses, I will be speaking with the Minister about the important relationship between Canada and Israel and about how we as parliamentarians can work to combat the concerning rise of anti-Semitism throughout the world.”
Lewis said she was not part of any diplomatic protocol discussions, referring those questions to the government.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said they consider the visit “private.”
Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks told the Star she only learned of Chikli’s upcoming visit when she received the invite to Lewis’ event.
“It’s highly disappointing to see the minister not go through official channels and to engage the government on important shared issues of anti-Semitism and the diaspora community,” she said.
Saks was among those who flagged the visit to the Israeli embassy in Ottawa and Joly’s office.
She told the Star she is very proud of decades worth of strong relations between Canada and Israel based on shared values.
“I would urge the minister to consider those in planning trips such as these.”
Internal Israeli government documents leaked to the media there suggested Israel was warned about having one of its cabinet ministers meet with groups the Canadian government considered “extreme,” as it ran the risk of sending the wrong message about who Israel wants as partners.
After Canada’s complaints, the Israeli press reported, Chikli’s itinerary was revised.
He is now expected to also meet with the official Parliamentary group in Ottawa, as well as other community groups.