Trudeau Discusses Jews in Arab Lands, Russia, in Exclusive Interview with JTA
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Trudeau Discusses Jews in Arab Lands, Russia, in Exclusive Interview with JTA

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Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an exclusive interview that the Canadian Government “has shown its concern for the Jewish minorities living in several Arab countries and has on occasion been able to be of some assistance to them.” The Prime Minister made this disclosure in prepared replies to a series of questions submitted to him by the JTA Montreal correspondent Michael M. Solomon.

He also declared that his Government had been “particularly disturbed” by recent reports on the plight of members of the Jewish community in Iraq “and is giving this matter serious consideration.” He added that Minister of Manpower and Immigration Allan MacEachen and Mitchell Sharp, the Secretary of State for External Affairs, had been studying means by which the Canadian Government “might assist in remedying this situation.” He warned that questions on procedure were a “very delicate matter, since, if any action on the part of the Canadian Government were to be misinterpreted, it might lead to a worsening of the situation in which the Jewish community now finds itself.” He added that “we hope to be able to take some positive steps through diplomatic channels in the near future” but he did not elaborate.

M. Trudeau was asked whether the Canadian Government might intervene “with the Soviet Government in respect of granting Soviet Jews elementary rights they are deprived of at present.” He replied that his Government “follows closely developments” affecting the human rights of Soviet Jews. He said that the sufferings of Jews in Europe under the Nazis “have given us a sense of special moral responsibility to oppose anti-Semitism wherever it may occur.”

He declared that the Soviet Union was “sensitive to public criticism about its treatment of Soviet Jewry, and Canada does not hesitate to make its views known.” However, he told the JTA, whether those views should be expressed through direct representations, or other means, depended “on an assessment of what approach is likely to be the most effective.” He declared that the Soviet Government “is aware that this question is a complicating factor in Soviet-Canadian relations.”


The Prime Minister said his Government had found no evidence to support complaints from Canadian Jewish organizations that Nazi war criminals had taken refuge in Canada after World War II and through false statements obtained naturalization giving them equal rights with native Canadian citizens. The Prime Minister said, “We have investigated all the alleged cases which have been brought to our attention” and “we have not found any evidence that citizenships have been obtained on the basis of such false statements.”

In another question, M. Trudeau was asked about a statement by Justice Minister John Turner that a measure to ban hate literature was not on the Government’s priority legislation list. M. Trudeau replied that “unfortunately, because of a backlog of legislation, it will not be possible to deal with the bill before the House adjourns for the summer recess.” The Canadian Parliament will be reconvened Oct. 25.

The Prime Minister reiterated his Government’s position that real peace in the Middle East “requires agreement and consent on the part of Israel and the Arab states. It cannot be imposed.” He added that Canada continued to give “its full support to the efforts of the United Nations, in particular the mission” of Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring, who was named as special peace envoy but whose mission has been suspended for several months while Big Four talks have been held. M. Trudeau added that his Government was “at all times prepared to consider means by which it may usefully act to help achieve this end.”

The Prime Minister, in reply to another question, assured Canadian Jews that the language bill now before the House of Commons, embodying his Government’s bilingualism policy, should not be a cause for any concern. Stressing that his goal was to assure “the rights and privileges1′ of Canadians whose language is French, as well as to those whose language is English, he told the JTA that it was not his Government’s purpose “to discriminate against other languages or other cultural groups.”

He added that his Government believed that “the special character of Canada is greatly enhanced by the contribution brought by Canadians of many different backgrounds, languages and racial extractions. Our hope is that these cultures will flourish and it is the policy of the present Government to assist them as best we can.”

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