Conservative lawmakers in Canada take over pro-Israel group


TORONTO (JTA) — Members of Canada’s federal Liberal Party are crying foul after lawmakers from the governing Conservatives wrested control of a pro-Israel friendship group.

Members of Parliament gathered last week in Ottawa to elect a new executive committee for the Canada-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group. Between 50 and 60 Conservative members showed up, compared to three Liberals, PostMedia News reported.

Ten Conservatives and two Liberals put their names forward; six Conservatives were elected to the committee.

Toronto-area Liberal lawmaker Carolyn Bennett, who chaired the friendship group for five years, acknowledged that the low turnout by Liberals contributed to her defeat. But she alleged that Conservative lawmakers were told how to vote by the pro-Israel government so they could take control of what is supposed to be a nonpartisan association.

"I was quite surprised by this juggernaut approach to taking over 100 percent of the executive positions on what is supposed to be a parliamentary friendship group," Bennett said. "Obviously this is something that was managed centrally."

But the group’s new chairman denied that the Prime Minister’s Office packed the meeting with Conservatives or told lawmakers how to vote.

"It was a free vote," southern Ontario Conservative lawmaker David Sweet said. "Those who were interested found time to show. You’d have to ask the Liberals why only three of their members did."

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