Mulroney, Announcing Resignation, is Hailed by Canadian Jews As Friend

Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who announced his resignation Wednesday, was hailed by Jewish groups as an ally and longtime supporter.

His announcement ended weeks of speculation and paved the way for a new leader to take over the Conservative Party at a leadership convention in June.

Polls taken within the last year showed Mulroney, who has been in office since 1984, to have become the most unpopular prime minister ever. His departure gives the Conservatives a chance of mending their party’s reputation before the scheduled elections this fall.

The non-partisan Canadian Jewish Congress wished Mulroney well in his future endeavors.

Irving Abella, the group’s national president, said the prime minister has “demonstrated great personal interest and sensitivity to the domestic and international concerns of the Jewish community of Canada. As well, we were very supportive of his singular commitment to national unity.”

Mulroney failed last year to push through a referendum that would have solidified unity among English- and French-speaking Canadians.

Abella pointed to several initiatives begun by Mulroney that were helpful to Jewish interests.

In February 1985, the government established the Deschenes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, which resulted in a law being passed in 1987 enabling the Justice Department to prosecute Nazi war criminals residing in Canada.

Other initiatives, said Abella, were “the battle against racism and anti-Semitism. His longstanding friendship and understanding for Israel has been greatly appreciated.”

B’nai Brith Canada also had kind words for Mulroney, contained in a letter forwarded to him by Gabriel Nachman, the group’s national president, and Frank Dimant, executive vice president.

“We are writing to commend your many years of dedicated service to the people of Canada and to wish you well as you retire from the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and as prime minister,” the letter stated.

“We wish to applaud the major actions undertaken under your leadership which have demonstrated a true responsiveness to our (Jewish) community’s needs.”

‘UNWAVERING SUPPORT’ FOR ISRAEL

The letter cited other initiatives spearheaded by Mulroney of concern to Canadian Jews.

His government took action limiting the possibility of a Jewish get, or religious divorce, being used as a bargaining tool in divorce proceedings involving Jewish partners.

“The legislation enacted has already served to control an abusive situation,” the letter said. “It is now a model for similar legislation in many democratic countries.”

B’nai Brith also took note of “the uniquely honest and clear-thinking approach which characterized your interventions on the matter of Israel and the Middle East peace process. No other Western leader has so plainly and so clearly affirmed reality and affirmed a commitment to fairness and honesty as you have in this area.

Mulroney was also seen by the Canada-Israel Committee as a true friend of Israel.

Robert Ritter, the group’s national executive director in Ottawa, said Mulroney demonstrated “unwavering support” for the Jewish state throughout his tenure.

Mulroney’s intended departure was the second announced by a Conservative politician in less than a week.

Joe Clark, current constitutional affairs minister and prime minister for a brief time in the late 1970s, announced that he would not seek re-election at the end of his term.

Clark, who entered the Canadian political arena more than 30 years ago is remembered by Jews as the Canadian leader who reneged on an election promise to move the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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