TORONTO, Nov. 21 (JTA) – Charges of Holocaust denial in a Canadian parliamentary campaign is prompting charges that election rhetoric is hitting a new low.
Elinor Caplan, the Liberal incumbent in a northern Toronto suburb, has said that supporters of the Alliance Party, the Liberals’ main political rival, are “Holocaust deniers, prominent bigots and racists.”
The comment came two weeks after Prime Minister Jean Chretien likened the Alliance Party to the “dark forces” that fueled European fascism more than half a century ago.
The remark has inspired editorial condemnation across Canada as the federal election approaches on Monday.
Caplan is battling to retain her seat in Thornhill, which has a high percentage of Jewish voters, many of whom were outraged after the government voted for a U.N. resolution last month that they say was strongly biased against Israel.
Stockwell Day, the leader of the maverick Alliance Party, called Caplan’s remarks “ridiculous” and “personally hurtful to me.”
Day apparently gained some Jewish support after he publicly criticized the government for supporting the U.N. resolution. At least 1,000 people came to hear him speak at a rally in a Thornhill synagogue several weeks ago.
Last month, at least 100 members of Toronto’s Jewish community, including real estate developer Albert Reichmann, attended a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinner for the Alliance, whose positions on family values, separate school funding and other issues seem to be in step with some members of the observant Jewish community.
Moshe Ronen, the national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said none of the five parties in the Canadian Parliament are racist or anti-Semitic, and that the Alliance Party has made assurances that it would not tolerate extremist elements within its ranks.
“They’ve told us they’re quite conscious of these dangers, and their intent is to root them out,” Ronen said.
Day has said repeatedly that anyone with racist views would be quickly booted out of the right-of-center party.
The Alliance recently withdrew party membership from Doug Christie, the Alberta-based lawyer for controversial Holocaust deniers Jim Keegstra and Ernst Zundel.
“I think it’s important for party leaders to make it very clear and very public that they will not tolerate racists, bigots or anti-Semites in any party, no matter which party it is,” Ronen said.