Conservative MP under fire for barring Liberal MP from attending charity event in Israel
Published Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:21PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 25, 2014 11:27PM EST
Conservative MP Mark Adler avoided questions Tuesday about why he barred Liberal MP Irwin Cotler from an event he co-hosted with an Israeli charity during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent trip to Israel.
Sources confirmed to CTV News that Cotler, an internationally-recognized human rights lawyer and activist, was not allowed to attend the event held last month in Tel Aviv. Cotler was not part of Harper's delegation, but was in Israel at the time for a conference.
When Adler was asked directly by CTV News if he didn’t allow Cotler to attend the event, he did not answer the question.
“You know what guys, I’m here for my private member’s bill, I’m really trying to focus on that,” he said, just before speaking at a parliamentary hearing into his bill aimed at exposing potential partisanship in offices, such as the Auditor’s General or Elections Canada.
As reporters continued to press Adler, one of his aides handed him a cellphone and he began talking into it as reporters stood behind him with recorders and cameras. He then turned and walked to another side of the room, still talking on the phone, with reporters following suit. Less than a minute later, Adler walked out of the committee room, flanked by two staff members, with the cellphone still to his ear.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Cotler’s office said Tuesday that the Montreal MP had no comment about the incident.
"Mr. Cotler has no comment on this or any other matter that would detract or deflect away from his ongoing advocacy on behalf of political prisoners abroad, or from his human rights initiatives here in Parliament," spokesperson Michael Milech said in an email.
Cotler is currently in Switzerland where he was expected to deliver the opening address at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
Cotler has spoken out strongly against the rising criticism of Israel as a new form of anti-Semitism. Harper, a staunch defender of Israel, drew from Cotler’s writings during a speech he gave to the Israeli parliament during his visit to the Middle East.
Leaders from the Canadian Jewish community criticized Adler for not allowing Cotler to attend the event.
“I think the only thing that now will stand in people's minds is the refusal to allow Mr. Cotler to join and walk into the room, which was a sad mistake,” Frank Dimant, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, told CTV News.
The Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday did not say whether it would ask Adler to apologize. It did say the event was not part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official program in Israel, and that the prime minister had no role in the event.
Adler had caused a stir during the Israel trip when he was caught on camera pleading to get in a "million-dollar shot" with Harper while the Prime Minister visited a sacred site in Jerusalem. He later called the request a "tongue-in-cheek" joke.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina