OTTA WA (Dec. 2)
The Canadian Government is not taking any “official action” to intervene through diplomatic channels with the Soviet Government in regard to anti-Jewish discriminations in the USSR for fear that such action might “provoke further restrictions against the Jewish community of the USSR,” Prime Minister Lester B, Pearson declared in Parliament.
The Prime Minister made that statement in replying at length to a question asked by former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker, leader of the Opposition. Mr. Diefenbaker had asked whether the Government was taking any action, in response to requests by Jewish organizations in the Dominion, “regarding shocking treatment of 3,000,000 Soviet Jews who have been subjected to increasing discrimination and persecution.”
“Has the Prime Minister,” asked Mr. Diefenbaker, “or the Secretary of State for External Affairs brought to the attention of the Soviet Ambassador a situation that is becoming more difficult and trying with the passing months?”
“Despite our concern,” replied Mr. Pearson, “we have not made representations to the Soviet embassy on the specific question of anti-Semitism in the USSR. If such representations were contemplated, the more appropriate channel would be to make an approach directly to the Soviet authorities through the Canadian embassy in Moscow. However, I should remind my friend who asked the question of the fact that there is in the Soviet Union a deep-seated suspicion of cosmopolitanism, that is a mistrust of elements in the population and particularly of minority and religious elements which the Soviet authorities fear might have international connections and loyalties which could conflict with their allegiance to the USSR.”
EXPLAINS ATTITUDE ON COMPLAINTS OF CANADIAN JEWISH GROUPS
“Because of this consideration, the present Government, as did the previous administration, wishes to avoid any official action which, by emphasizing the Soviet suspicion of the international affiliation of the Jews, might provoke further restrictions against the Jewish community in the USSR,” the Prime Minister explained.
Mr. Pearson noted that several of the letters sent to the Canadian Government by Jewish organizations in this country had dealt specifically with the high percentage of Soviet Jews given the death sentence or long prison terms for “economic misdemeanors.” Regarding that point, the Prime Minister stated:
“I find it particularly unfortunate that any government should find it necessary to resort to those penalties for economic crimes which were abandoned in many countries of the world at least a century ago. Although the penalties have been levied against persons of various nationalities and faiths within the USSR, the disproportionate number of Jews given severe sentences may reflect the historical tradition of anti-Semitism which has prevailed among the population, even though there is no evidence to suggest a state program encouraging anti-religious persecution within the USSR.”