MP Housefather appointed to new role fighting antisemitism

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather has been named the federal government's new special adviser on Jewish community relations and antisemitism.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office says Housefather will advise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and ministers on the federal government's efforts to "combat antisemitism and ensure Jewish Canadians are able to live with vibrancy, security, and dignity."

Housefather's appointment comes after splits opened up in the Liberal government caucus over the Israel-Hamas war. It also raises questions about how Housefather's role will differ from that of Deborah Lyons, the government's special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism.

"There has been no time in my lifetime when Jewish Canadians have felt as threatened as they do today," Housefather said in a media statement published Friday.

"While we cannot make antisemitism disappear, all levels of government, universities and police can take concrete steps to make Jewish Canadians feel safer in this country."

The MP for Mount Royal will undertake his new responsibilities while continuing his role as parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board. The government says he will be working closely with Lyons, Jewish communities and relevant stakeholders across the country.

Prime Minister Trudeau said in a media statement Friday that the government will do "whatever it takes to fight antisemitism and hate, which is unfortunately too prevalent in our communities."

"With Mr. Housefather's appointment, we're continuing to make sure Jewish Canadians' voices are heard, protecting Jewish Canadian communities, and making Canada more inclusive for everyone."

Housefather has clashed with his government over its stance on the Gaza war. In March, he said he needed to re-evaluate his place in the Liberal caucus after many of his fellow Liberal MPs supported an NDP motion on the war, saying he believed "a line had been crossed."

The NDP motion originally called on the government to officially recognize Palestine as a state and to "suspend all trade in military goods and technology with Israel."

Most Liberal MPs supported the motion after some last-minute amendments. The final wording urged the government to "work with international partners" to "pursue the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," and to work "towards the establishment of the State of Palestine as part of a negotiated two-state solution."

Housefather himself was a recent target of an antisemitic message. On Tuesday, the Montreal MP shared a photo of a poster that called him a neo-Nazi and said he should "get out of Canada."

The photo shows the poster taped to a concrete lamppost in Montreal. A Nazi flag and an Israeli flag — with the star of David replaced by a swastika — are displayed on the sign alongside the words "Housefather = Neo-Nazi" and "get out of Canada."

"My family has been here since the 19th century and we have indeed helped build this country. I am not going anywhere. Sorry, antisemites. You may not like what I have to say but I will keep saying it," Housefather wrote in his social media post.