Julian Leeser MP in conversation with Melissa Lantsman MP, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

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7 May 2024

Julian Leeser 

Well, good evening and thank you for joining us for this special conversation with Canadian MP Melissa Lantsman, the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, which is Canada’s official opposition.

Over 600 people are joining us online tonight, and even in the depths of COVID, I don’t think I ever convened a meeting online that was this big. I think your presence here tonight is indicative of the seriousness with which all of us are concerned about antisemitism in our country and also all of our desire to hear from one of the most important voices globally in the fight on antisemitism.

I want to thank Melissa for joining us. I’m honoured to have her with us. While we’re all comfortably enjoying listening to her at eight o’clock in Sydney of an evening, it’s six am in Canada for Melissa. So it’s really special that she’s made the effort to see us today.

Today I’m going to make some introductory remarks and then introduce Melissa and then she and I will have a conversation. If you’d like to ask a question, you can send it through by clicking on the chat button on your screen. This isn’t like a regular Zoom. You won’t be able to see and hear other participants or read their comments, but we will select a range of your questions to put to Melissa tonight.

Since the events of the 7th of October, the world has seen an unparalleled and unprecedented increase in antisemitism. Even in a great country like Australia, which has had Jewish people since the first fleet, since the days of European settlement. A country which has always been good for Jewish people, where Jewish Australians have succeeded in every imaginable field, we’re seeing things I thought we’d never see. 

The terrible protests at the Opera House on the 9th of October. The doxing of Jewish artists and creatives and small business people. The terror convoys we’ve seen in our suburbs, the regular protests we’ve seen in our cities and on our campuses. We’ve seen universities fail to take action to protect Jewish students and staff from harassment and intimidation. We’ve seen encampments established. We’ve seen academics indoctrinating infants and children about intifada. We’ve seen student leaders this week calling for the unconditional support for Hamas. There’s been a lack of moral clarity from our Prime Minister and his ministers, who find it difficult to talk about antisemitism without mentioning Islamophobia in the same breath. And the Australian government has been sliding in its support for Israel since long before the 7th of October. Reversing Australia’s support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, not siding with Israel at the United Nations, restoring funding for UNRWA.

As I’ve said many times, our Foreign Minister Penny Wong has a blind spot when it comes to Israel. She went to Israel and failed to go South to see the kibbutz where those dreadful events of the 7th of October happened and is now trying to set Australia on a pathway for the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

In recent days we’ve had an Education Minister who said that intifada and “river to the sea” mean different things to different people, and I want to quote him. He said “I’ve seen people say that those words mean the annihilation of Israel, and I’ve seen people say that it means the opposite.” I’d like to meet those people.

We’ve seen a failure of leadership from this government. We’ve seen a failure of leadership from police. We’ve seen a failure of leadership from human rights organisations, and we’ve seen a failure of leadership from our Vice Chancellors.

As my leader, Peter Dutton, the Leader of the Opposition, has said, this is a time for moral clarity. And that moral clarity is something that he has repeatedly displayed in calling out antisemitism and in calling on leaders and those who are responsible for dealing with it to take action.

Of course, antisemitism is not just about Jews. It’s about the very social fabric about Australia. It’s really about the sort of future we want in this country for our children and our families and our friends. Sadly, Australia is not alone in experiencing an uptick in antisemitism and it’s why tonight I wanted to talk to one of one of Canada’s leading parliamentarians and one of the leading people in her country and worldwide fighting antisemitism on the streets.

Melissa Lansman was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 2021. This is her first term in Parliament. She’s the member for Thornhill. It’s an electorate in Toronto with a large Jewish community. After only one year in Parliament, she became deputy leader of the Conservative Party of Canada under their leader, Pierre Poilievre. Before she was a member of Parliament, she was a public affairs executive working in large companies and organisations. During the government of Stephen Harper, she served in many positions, including as Director of Communications for Prime Minister Harper himself. I’m pleased to welcome the next Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Melissa Lansman.

Thanks so much for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa Lantsman

Thanks. Thanks so much for having me. It sounds like a very similar story of what we’re experiencing in Canada. You could switch out the words Australian and Canada and we’ve got almost exactly the same situation for the Jewish community here.

Julian Leeser

Melissa, we’ll come to the response to the 7th of October, but I thought it was worthwhile to just ask a little bit about you, your family and your background. Tell me a little bit about yourself and how did your family come to be in Canada?

Melissa Lantsman

For sure.  I’ve got a story of so many in Canada, my family came here actually later than most of the Jewish community.

My father was an uncredentialed engineer who came here from the former Soviet Union in 1975. Typical story, he was uncredentialed and drove a cab to put my mother through school, bought a house in a suburb of Toronto, where the majority of the Jewish community now lives. In one generation in this country you can go from the front seat of a taxi to the front row of Parliament Hill, and that used to be the story in Canada.

But it’s very very quickly changing. But they worked hard and we grew up in the place that I now represent. I went to French schools my entire life. So good training for an eventual career in what they hoped would have been medicine. But they got politics from me.

Julian Leeser

Tell me something about the Canadian Jewish community. How big is it? Like the Australian Jewish community is it a community that’s been largely successful and well respected over the years? Tell me something about Canada?

Melissa Lantsman

Yeah, certainly. Look, it’s a community that has been part of the fabric of the history of Canada. We’re actually the 4th largest Jewish community and 3rd largest outside of Israel at about 400,000 people.

It used to be centred around a place called Montreal, which is in a French speaking province of Quebec, and that’s slowly shifted as it became very difficult for English speaking Canadians and for new immigrants to get ahead in places like Quebec, but they’re still a sizable community. But the majority lives in in Toronto, which is the unofficial capital, its where our sports teams play, our centre of commerce and certainly where the Jewish community lives up and down the corridor of one street, so almost half of the community there. And some communities across the country, some sizable with rich histories in in those places.

A successful community, like everywhere else in the diaspora and part of the facet of everyday Canadian life in just about every industry.

Julian Leeser

I read I think you’re the first Jewish woman to win a seat for the Conservative Party of Canada, am I right in saying that?

Melissa Lanstman

I am, and I found that out when somebody told me that which I find hard to believe. I believe we’ve got about four or five constituencies that have sizable Jewish communities that would make the difference in electoral politics, and probably 10 total where there’s a sizable community. So I was surprised to learn that, and happy and we’ll see what we make of it.

Julian Leeser

Now you became deputy leader of your party in one term. I think I’m in my third term now. What advice do you have for me?!

Melissa Lantsman

Well, I’m not new to politics. I’m not new to the conservative movement. I am new to elected politics.

It was a bit turbulent when I got to Ottawa. We had a change in leadership of our party after an election loss when many thought that we should have been successful in the 2021 election. A leadership change to the guy who I’ve been supportive of my entire political career. The guy that I think is going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada and the polls suggest that too.

His name is Pierre Poilievre, we’ll talk about him a little bit later. But when he became leader he chose me to be one of two deputy leaders. Before that I spent a few minutes as the transport critic and made hay out of some of our COVID restrictions. So made a name for myself quite quickly and have the support of so many in the community, so many across the country and so many of my colleagues, to be the voice of reason as conservatives have been in this country.

Julian Leeser

Now you have a double-digit lead in the polls at the moment over the Trudeau government. How are you tracking after nine years of the Trudeau Government?

Melissa Lantsman

Well, I’ll say the perfunctory thing that everybody always says, you know, the only poll that matters is the poll that comes back on Election Day.

Julian Leeser

We say that too.

Melissa Lantsman

We’re not going to start measuring curtains, but we do have a sizable lead and that has much to do with, I think, a leader that has gotten us focused on the task ahead. And a Prime Minister, who after nine years of leadership, has just created complete carnage in this country from the cost-of-living crisis to drugs, chaos, disorder in in our streets. A lack of moral clarity on many of the issues that Canada was once a leader in the world, inability to develop natural resources and get those tied to market, and just in general. If you ask a Canadian If their life is better eight or nine years later after this Prime Minister, it is a resounding no right across the country, no matter who you are.

Julian Leeser

Again, it sounds very similar to the Australian situation, but it’s only taken our government three years to put us in that position. So hopefully we can be in the position you are in the lead into our election.

Now I wanted to move off sort of general Canadian politics and come to the reaction in Canada to the events of the 7th of October. What’s shocked you and what have you seen that’s given you hope? Give us a bit of a sense of the reaction of Canadians, of the government, of other actors in your country to the 7th October?

Melissa Lantsman

You know our country has been very similar in terms of response from how you started this call and how you started speaking about it. We used to have a consensus in this country where both major parties, the Liberals and the and the Conservatives, the Liberals are currently governing, were rather supportive of Israel and I think that there’s been times in history where we’ve had a Conservative government that has been more supportive and certainly more unabashed in its support and more vocal in its support. But generally the votes at the UN we’re supportive of Israel. The policy, the people to people ties are long standing. We’ve got a 75 year diplomatic relationship with a close friend and ally and it has been good, and it’s hard to imagine that over the last seven months that it’s taken the turn that it is taken where I think we’re probably at our lowest point in diplomatic relations in the sense that I’m not sure that anybody would take a call from a Canadian politician.

We have a Prime Minister that is effectively doing exactly the same thing as your government, speaking out of both sides of their mouths – sending Jewish MP’s or Jewish friendly MP’s into one area to say one thing, sending the other side of his caucus or his party to into other communities, to say an entirely different thing, and they really, really haven’t had a position that I would describe as clear in any respect.

I have to tell you a story. I spoke at a rally, I think it was October 9th after October 7th. And I had warned from that stage, and I was probably the only one to say this, I got a lot of heat for saying this afterwards. But I said, everybody’s going to be on side tonight and everybody is going to say the right thing about the biggest pogrom that you’ve seen in Israel since the Holocaust and everybody is going to be on side and you watch in the days to follow what people say and who says nothing at all.

And I found that long standing friends of the community, even those in the in the Liberal Party, all of a sudden got silent. And I think that that’s silence spoke volumes, you know, privately in conversations. You know, “we’re with you, but I can’t say anything.” And they’ve been scared into submission and ruled by a mob. That has changed the conversation and what I thought was the face of Canada in just seven months and frankly less than a month after that and it happened.

Julian Leeser

I think one of the things that surprised me here has been how quickly we saw this. There wasn’t even a day where someone could make the speech of the sort that you made. We had those Opera House protests, which you no doubt saw in Canada as well, bring international shame on Australia and we had the police really fail to take action. The State Labor Minister for Police telling Jewish people they shouldn’t go into the city of our biggest city Sydney. I don’t think there’s been let up at all for people to take stock of what happened on the 7th of October in that terrible pogrom. And, I think, you saw even at that time a mealy mouth response from our from our governments at the state and federal level.

I just want to remind people just before I get Melissa to respond that if you’d like to ask a question, you can ask questions through the chat and we’ll put them to Melissa as we as we go through.

You mentioned the sort of the, the sort of slide that’s occurred over a long period of time, particularly on the centre left side of Canadian political spectrum. We’ve seen a similar slide in Australia – 20 years of anti-Israel resolutions of Labor Party conferences each year getting worse and worse through the trade unions as well. What do you put this down to?

Melissa Lantsman

I think it’s an inversion of common sense on the on the progressive left, and I think we’ve seen it over the course of, like you said, 20 years infiltrating our institutions like our universities, our colleges, our unions, our workplaces. And I remember this being a student.

I was a student about 20 years ago in a university. I remember sounding the alarm bell saying what’s going on here is bad news. I had the elders in the community, I was a student leader before I did this, I had the elders in the community saying don’t worry, they’re going to start paying taxes. These folks are going to dry out or level out and this isn’t going to permeate in the rest of your life.

It turns out that these people grew up and they became the professionals, the heads of banks and insurance companies and teachers within our in our system and in some cases, professors. And turns out that they’ve carried that ideology through.

And I think one of the most pervasive points that permeate all of those systems is things like diversity, equity and inclusion mandates. I don’t know what you call them on your side, but they are a complete inversion of the oppressor and the oppressed. Framing things in a in a in a colonial slight. Like getting rid entirely of the idea of merit or achievement and instilling this victimisation and I think that has been, something the Jewish community first of all, cannot be a part of. Can never be a part of. We can never change that kind of ideology to include things like antisemitism, which by the way it doesn’t include. It needs to be scrapped and I think that that’s at the core of it.

What’s changed the mindset, I think is an algorithm fuelled by a repressive regime in China is permeating the young minds that that we have that are attached to phones and supercharged. I think many in the Jewish community probably feel similar in Australia, where the groups that you once supported marched with, I can think of movements like Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement, LGBT causes. They were nowhere to be found and infiltrated by this DEI mandates that that say “Jews don’t matter”. And that’s been, it hasn’t been an entire shock to me and people who are listening will understand this. I grew up in a Soviet Union Family, I learned very, very young that the world wasn’t going to be kind to the Jewish community. I was taught by history, I just didn’t think that it would happen so quickly and so much in official Ottawa or official government.

Julian Leeser

Can we talk a little bit about Canadian foreign policy for a moment? As I mentioned, our Foreign Minister is taking steps to move us on the path to unilateral recognition of the Palestinian State. Has Canada already got there or where are you on that and what’s the Trudeau government doing on that front?

Melissa Lantsman

Yeah. Look, we’ve got parliamentarians in this Parliament that have brought forward a motion to that tune. That motion was sort of watered down and it was taken out, but that’s certainly where the country is moving. That’s certainly where the population is moving. That’s certainly where the government is moving.

On the foreign policy side, we’ve had almost the same sort of response from our Foreign Minister. We haven’t had a Prime Minister who stepped foot in in Israel, I suspect that’s what he wanted. We’ve had a Foreign Minister that’s visited the region and the thing that came back from the region is her and another MP, who also represents a large Jewish constituency, photographed caressing the hands of Mahmoud Abbas. Rather than, you know, engaging in a real way with the victims and the families of hostages.

We’ve had a reinstatement of UNWRA funding which I am not entirely convinced was ever stopped in the first place, and it was a Conservative government that had stopped that funding before, a government that had stopped it momentarily here to have an investigation about who was involved, whose workers were involved in October 7th. That never really came to fruition in any kind of real investigation and that funding was reinstated, changed the votes in the UN and certainly co-signing of letters with Australia and our friends in New Zealand. That looked and felt entirely different than what the Jewish community had been used to, again from a consensus position on Israel.

Julian Leeser

I think only a few years ago, if a letter had been signed by Stephen Harper and John Howard and John Key in relation to these matters, it would have a very different flavour to a letter signed by the three current or at least the two of the three current prime ministers of those Countries including your Prime Minister and my Prime Minister too. And it’s been disappointing to see the backslide in that regard. But that is, as we said earlier, a reflection of what’s happening in the political left.

I’ve been very worried in our country about what’s happening on campus, and I think particularly of Jewish students and Jewish academics. Give me a sense of what’s happening on campuses in Canada today?

Melissa Lantsman

Well, we’re no different than I think some of the news that you’ve seen out of the US where this started, we’re just a little bit later. But, over the course of the last number of months, the lawlessness and the rhetoric and the vile hatred has been sort of stepped up a number of notches. You know, we’ve got all of the laws in place, we’ve got an enforcement problem in Canada and I suspect that it’s the same all over G7 countries or all over Western democracies where we don’t have enforcement on campus. We don’t have what we’ve seen, in examples in Texas or in places like Florida where they’ve cleared campuses quickly. We’ve got, you know full on encampments occupying a campus against the notion of occupation.

We’ve had that in in the past, we had a very famous incident with the convoy that brought itself to Ottawa, right across the country, through with truckers and talking about COVID mandates. We had a long and deep commitment to COVID mandates here in Canada. And it got to the point where they came to Ottawa and they were here for three weeks and there were politicians right across the board accusing these very same people of being misogynists and racists and Nazis. And it is those people that have been absolutely silent about the encampments, now speaking about, you know, constitutional rights to protests.

And of course as conservatives we believe in free speech – in my case, almost an absolutist. We believe in the right to protest. We will protect that right. But with those rights come limits. And I think that we’ve seen those limits exceeded every step of the way. We’ve had people on the front steps of our large institutions, art galleries, similar to your Opera House, chanting in favour of another October 7th. “Long live October 7th”. “Glory to the martyrs”. You hear these slogans, and I don’t know how it makes Jews or freedom loving Canadians or those who are particular about Western values, feel comfortable in the streets in which they live, in the places in which they work. In the places in which they go to school or take their kids to work.

Julian Leeser

I think you are right. It is about the failure of enforcement and some of it is just a plain failure of leadership in our country. I think you know, we’ve got people with powers, you’ve got people who could stand up and they could call out some of these things, we’re failing too.

And that’s at a political level or within human rights bureaucracies. And I know your leader has been very strong in calling out human rights apparatus, the police hate speech laws not being enforced. Why do you think there’s this reluctance to enforce the law as it is?

Melissa Lantsman

Look, first of all, I do want to say something. Our leader has been absolutely unequivocal. We had a Prime Minister in the past that was absolutely unequivocal. We had a Prime Minister before that in the former iteration of our party and the Progressive Conservative Party that was unequivocal. So the Party has always been unequivocal in its stand on, you know, on choosing one side.

On the issue of police, we’ve had similar movements take hold in Canada. We’ve had 15 years of a defund the police movement where our own politicians at the city level, at the provincial level have marched against our police forces. We’ve had chronic underfunding. And I think that we’ve had a lack of leadership, also an organisation where DEI has permeated the psyche, or at least the guts of the organisation in the same way that it has with schools and unions alike.

But these things matter. And these things matter when it comes to enforcement, because I genuinely do not believe that our police officers, our frontline officers feel like they have the backing of politicians. And I think that the chronic underfunding has led to things like de-escalation rather than enforcement. And as a result, you know, I think it’s a similar situation where there are there is fear in the eyes of every Jewish Canadian in this country, and there is a fear to do the things that we once did on October 6th.

And those are simple things like taking your kids to school, shopping at a Jewish business. We’ve had bullets into schools, firebombs into synagogues. Fires set in Jewish businesses. This is terrorism and it is hard to believe that a community that has experienced actual terrorist attacks isn’t and cannot be protected by a police force. Now there’s some police forces that have been better than others but overall, I think we haven’t seen the enforcement that would make Canadians feel comfortable about living and playing and working in their community.

Julian Leeser

I think what you’ve just said means that the situation in your country is actually worse than it is here. We haven’t had the sort of defund the police movements that you’ve had there. People would make arguments about whether we’ve got to a situation where we’ve tied the police down and red tape that has made it more difficult for them to do their jobs. But a lot of it, I think in our country at least, is cultural.

I speak to leaders, whether they’re police leaders or vice chancellors and so on, they just simply want to manage a situation. They don’t want to actually stand up for what’s right. They don’t want to enforce the law. They don’t want to show some leadership to back people who are the victims of this hate that’s going on in our community. They just want to manage the situation.

I think in some respects it’s the fear of taking on people who have demonstrated their capacity to be bullies, and I think failing early on to take on people who were misbehaving. Some of the protests, people were cheering for this to terrorist organisations, students saying that they felt that Hamas was doing a good job or deserve unconditional support. They didn’t do anything about this.

It’s just basically left people who are out there protesting with, oh well if you can get away with that, what else can we get away with? And they just constantly push the envelope and that’s why we’ve got to this situation. I think we’ve got to here in Australia today.

Are the other parties at the left in Canada now, particularly your principal opponents, are they a lost cause on these issues, or is there a way back?

Melissa Lantsman

Well, look, I think there’s a way back. There’s always a pendulum that swings in democracies. I think that leadership comes from the top, I think the tone is set at the top. You know, certainly for Jewish Canadians this is issue number one, two, three, four and five. It occupies much of the space in the community conversation because there is actual fear.

For Canadians, the rest of this country, we’ve got inflated housing markets, we’ve had the cost of a home double, the cost of rent double over the last eight years. We’ve had crime, car theft almost double and in some cases more than double in this country in the last eight years. We’ve got growth rates that are abysmal and amongst the lowest in any advanced economy. Productivity rates of the same nature.

So for many Canadians, in addition to what you would feel as a Jewish community, things aren’t good in Canada. Things are very broken in Canada and when things are broken I think that there is an opportunity to, first of all, to point that out to ascribe blame to why those things are broken and the policies that got us here. And then there is a vacuum that could be filled with the leadership that we need to set us back on track.

I think the beginning of this conversation was again a bit despondent. But I do believe that everything is fixable. If I didn’t and Julian, I don’t think if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be doing this every day. I think there is hope for those who want to protect Western values and civilization and freedom in this country.

I think these protests on campuses will push a part of the population to see what is really going on here. And that is the glorification and support of terror, and not the support for the Palestinian people and those who find themselves in the midst of war. Those two things are very, very different. And I think that given where the situation is going, I think we’ll see more allies and not less.

And I’m actually very, very hopeful about a change in leadership, a change in direction in this country. I’m hopeful for you to experience the same thing. And for us, once we’re both in government and in places of authority in this country that we can impart some of that moral authority, we can go back to having the position that we share on the right side of history and not the wrong one.

Julian Leeser

I’m going to come back to some of those optimistic points because I think it is important. I find myself reminding people in the community, more broadly, that this is the time to stand up, to be proud, to go about doing that we’ve always done and to double down on our involvement in things. I think that is important.

Because I think broadly in our country, and certainly in the community that I represent where the Jewish Community is very small in, in the electorate I represent. People come up to me every day and tell me they stand with the Jewish people, they stand with Israel and I think that’s where the majority of most Australians are. And I suspect, there in your country, it’s probably where the great mass of Canadians would be as well. What we often call broad middle.

I want to deal with some of the questions that have been put from people on the call. How do we get the world’s media to show the terrorists being the reason for all the suffering and death raging in Gaza and the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide, rather than focusing on Israel’s response to the massacres and the Gazans who are incapable of their own destiny due to terrorist controls?

Melissa Lantsman

It’s a good question. You’re not going to like the answer. We don’t. I think that’s part of the conversation that has been lost.

That said, you know, I think it’s incumbent on us to use all kinds of different media to go above and beyond it. I think it’s important to convince people through, you know, through social media and through alliances. We have so many allies in this fight and you said something very important there, very critical that I think the majority of Australians, the majority of Canadians, certainly over a certain age are probably on the right side of this issue. We’ve got an Iranian diaspora here that is strong and vibrant, that understands that the carnage caused by Hamas is simply a proxy of the greater problem, which is the IRGC -the mullahs in in Iran. We have a Hindu community, a Christian community. We have a prayer breakfast about to happen in Ottawa. It’s at 7:30. It’s the largest one in history. And as I was walking through the city yesterday, I got stopped and one of the comments overwhelmingly was “Keep fighting. We support you. We support Israel.”

So I think that, you know, we’re not going to turn the media. In fact, we have a deep, deep problem in Canada with funding of that media. We’ve got promises within our own platform to defund some of these state broadcasters or political tools of propaganda as I like to refer to them. But we are not going to change the conversation. That’s lost. But another thing that is lost amongst a younger population is any subscription or watching of mainstream media. That is not what people are getting their information. So we’ve got to skate where the puck is going as we say in Canada.

Julian Leeser

You mentioned Iran and Israel here and I’ve a significant Persian constituency in my electorate and in fact one of my constituents who’s on the call has asked me whether can you promise that your party will list the IRGC, if you don’t know that’s the Iranian secret police, should you win the next election in Canada? And they’ve also asked me.

Our policy is that we’ve said to the present government that we want them to list the IRGC and if there are any legal impediments that we will support any legislative changes to help list the IRGC. That’s the position of the Coalition in Australia.

Melissa Lantsman

I want to give you some context here because to me this is one of the most absurd issues that the government has failed on. We had a flight PS752 that was a Ukrainian flight that that was downed by the Mullahs in Iran, they took responsibility for that. 55 Canadian citizens died on that flight, were killed by the by the Iranian regime, 31 other permanent residents.

4 years ago we had a vote in our Parliament to list to ban the IRGC because today they can organise and raise money and operate freely in this country. We have a known 700 agents of the IRGC that that currently reside in in Canada and are probably on a path to permanency in this country. And we have a government that has outright failed to ban them. It is one of our promises, it is something that the leader of our party, Pierre Poilievre, goes back to. We have to be able to call terrorists what they are in this country, terrorists. And we have to protect our own borders. Including banning the IRGC, banning things like the PFLP, other organisations that that function here and the foreign agent registry that we have been slow and lost on.

So the short answer is yes, we would have done it yesterday and we will do it when we were in government. We will continue to push this government to do the right thing in case they wake up with an epiphany that that is bad news for Canada.

Julian Leeser

The Iranian diaspora has a particularly strong understanding of what’s really happening on the ground in the Middle East and the terrible role that Iran is playing in exporting terror, not only terrorising its own people. I’ve found some of the strongest supporters of Israel and the Jewish community here to be found in the diaspora. And while I don’t think the situation here is as bad as you’ve outlined it there. Certainly, you’ll go to meetings with the Iranian community and they will be concerned about whether they’re being spied on, reporting back on family and making the lives of people here uncomfortable.

I’ve called – and as a backbencher I don’t make the foreign policy for our party – but I’ve called for us to cut diplomatic ties with Iran. My view is that we shouldn’t be having a diplomatic relationship with a terrorist criminal regime. We should have a foreign policy which is underpinned by our basic values and none of those values that we share with Iran. I’m not entirely sure why we continue a diplomatic relationship with them and I think it would make the community here much safer if we didn’t maintain diplomatic relations there.

Melissa Lantsman

We too had had a long standing controlled engagement policy with Iran and then a government who decided they wanted to have closer ties. This is one of the most destabilising regimes in the region and in the world, and they terrorise populations outside. I love the Persian community and I love the way that they’ve come out in the last two years on the women life freedom movement. They’re certainly allies. And I think that a younger generation of a very successful long-standing community in in Canada is now engaged in a way that they’ve never been engaged. And if one thing comes out of this, its another ally in the fight for freedom, for democracy, for human rights, for the rule of law, and for everything that is good in the West.

Julian Leeser

We’ve got a question here about social media. You brought up the algorithms before. Can you talk a little bit more about what you think can be done about social media algorithms and social media companies more broadly on these issues?

Melissa Lantsman

Look, they have to be held accountable. This is an algorithm fuelled by, particularly in the case of foreign dictatorships, in the case of things like TikTok. And you can see it in the numbers. All of the polling suggest that those over the age let’s say of 40 have one view of the issue of October 7th. Everybody else and under isn’t like that. It is obvious where this is coming from. It is not just our university campuses because as you know, there are many, many people outside of that system that hold the very same view.

These companies have to be regulated in a way that they are accountable for how the information is being spread. And it can’t be government deciding what people see and say on the internet. We’ve had trouble with the current government and its draconian censorship laws. But there needs to be some accountability for these algorithms, because I think that is fuelling the hateful, vile rhetoric that we are seeing and it is a bad spot to be online. I think that that’s where most people under the age of 40 dwell for the majority of their days.

Julian Leeser

I’ve got a question about antisemitism on campus now. Can you talk a little bit more about how the far left in Canada is targeting and radicalising young people when it comes to antisemitism in Canada.

Melissa Lantsman

Well, I spoke a little bit about the issue of DEI. I think that radicalises a population and allowing them to think as part of this mantra of this notion of victimisation, of oppressor and oppressed, of colonialism. But this has been the progressive left and socialist movements for a long time. We just had Yom Hashoah yesterday and if you think about the socialist Nazi party that was responsible for the darkest days in human history it is no different. It’s a new version of this that exists on campus now. Where it’s an issue for the federal governments, we have tonnes of research money and granting councils that are fuelling this entirely and that where university administrations are weak and give in to the mob.

But I was talking to Julian before this call about lawlessness on campus. It’s like the rules of order and governance don’t apply on these university campuses. So there are things that can be done, should be done. Strings attached to funding agreements that governments have with the universities. We have a school system where almost any Canadian, and I would say any Canadian, can go to school for the price that are set at our universities and that is because it is funded by the public system, not in its entirety but a large portion of that. From an operational perspective and from the research perspective, it is time that government made demands of universities and what is allowed on campus. It is the dogma of the progressive Left, I would say 90% of faculty and as a result, those who are being taught by faculty have fallen into this trap of, you know, frankly, insanity.

Julian Leeser

I couldn’t agree more, Melissa well said If I may say. One of the questions we’ve got here is now about pressures on the Liberal Party of Canada. It says here in Australia, the governing Labor Party is facing electoral challenges from the far left and the Greens and from electorates with substantial Arab and Muslim voters. What’s the situation in Canada for the Liberal Party of Canada, for Trudeau’s party in that regard, and is that influencing the policies that they’re adopting on Israel and antisemitism?

Melissa Lantsman

I think there is an effort to try to shore up some of the electorate that I think has moved away from the Liberals and that’s in every demographic. This is a party that that went from 3rd place to 1st place in 2015, entirely fueled by, you know, young people and hope and change. And in our case, the legalisation of marijuana was a big feather in the cap for the Prime Minister who legalised it two years after he became Prime Minister.

But this isn’t a Liberal Party anymore, this is a deeply illiberal Prime Minister. A Prime Minister who has clinged on to censorship and division as his way of governing. Who has taken away the dream of home ownership and advancement for almost an entire generation. This isn’t a challenge from the right or even the far right. This is the challenge of common sense. We used to have a consensus in this country that you know, that the people that were coming into this country could work hard. They could get ahead, they could achieve something. The bad guys went to jail. Justin Trudeau is not a liberal. He is deeply, deeply illiberal. He has moved far, far to the left, and as a result there is a big taking on the other side for those who want to restore the Canada that they understand, the Canada that they remember, the Canada that they want to be. And I think that’s his fortune.

He’s certainly facing, he’s in a coalition right now, this is this important to mention, being propped up by a far left party. That he’s effectively eating the lunch of a far left party. Trying to out left each other and I should say this, it goes back to my introduction to you, I come from a mixed marriage. My mum was a liberal, my father was a conservative. And she didn’t leave the Liberal Party, she often said before she passed away that “I didn’t leave the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party left me”. And I think that that’s where the majority of those who had once voted Liberal, those who had once seen the Liberal as a responsible consensus position in this country are at.

Julian Leeser

And that’s a very good question. Very good point to ask you about, what I think is one of the dangerous outcomes of the next Australian election. One of the dangerous outcomes if the Liberal Party of Australia is not successful in in our election, is a coalition between the Labor Party and the Greens here and the Greens pulling Labour further to the left. Particularly on issues in relation to Israel and antisemitism and the Greens, basically are a party where antisemitism is now a part of their ideology – the most extreme anti-Israel resolutions in parliament. Greens senators saying that Jews have tentacles and shouldn’t have participated in the public life of this country, appearing at protests where they say keep the world clean and throw Israel in the bin. To what extent has the Canadian coalition between the Liberals and the parties further to the left influenced the position of the Liberal Party on these important issues and what danger is there for us?

Melissa Lantsman

I think that the numbers of those in the general population and where they see their voter coalitions, has been influenced by the party from the left.

I think there used to be a fairly mature organised community here that has always had friends or at least supposed friends in every party. That doesn’t exist in our far left party, they’re called the New Democrats.

We released a report yesterday, one of the organisations in this country released a report on antisemitic attacks and they’re not even found on stage anymore. We once had, it was a multi-party press conference where we talked about the rise in antisemitism and how it has progressively gone up. To the point where we’ve doubled it since last year in terms of incidents. But the leftist party is not there.

I have to say that you know, if the Conservatives do not win a majority of the seats, I fear that we do not govern because I think there is no notion of a coalition on the other side. I think the left has been slowly and more quickly since October 7th moving away from any kind of reasonable position on Israel. Where you see again their Members of Parliament in some of these encampments, at least in one case I saw online before coming on to this to this call. I think that there are elements of that within the Liberal Party itself. Within the that general consensus party that that used to exist and I think that if again conservatives don’t win that majority, we probably have a very, very tough job in forming a government because there are just more on the other side.

Julian Leeser

So, in the remaining 10 minutes. I wanted to finish on a hopefully optimistic note. What’s the future for the Canadian Jewish community? And is Canada still a good place to be Jewish?

Melissa Lantsman

So I’m worried about the future of Canada and the protection of Jewish community and I’m worried about physical security and things like that. But I’m also optimistic and every single day you see leaders inching forward, particularly the unequivocal support of the leadership in our party. I’m not worried about the next 10 or 15 years. I’m a bit more worried about the future, the long road future of what it means to be a Jew in this country, whether Jews remain in this country. We’ve seen a little bit of an exodus of a young entrepreneurial Jewish community moving to jurisdictions like Florida not too far from us, warmer weather. And an ability to, I think, get ahead economically. We’ve got other issues in the country. It is very expensive to own a home in a Jewish community. We happen to be centred around cities. It is very expensive to have your kids in private Jewish education. The institutional costs of being part of the community are far higher than I think the average salary. And I think those things push people to look to other jurisdictions.

There will always be a Jewish community in Canada. There will always be a strong organised community and what gives me hope is that aside from a strong, institutional, organised community. There has been so many people that have come back to the community in one way or another, whether it is practising the ritual Judaism on Fridays or Saturdays or with family on holidays. Whether it’s those who have taken up the fight on antisemitism. Or spreading cultural messages is almost a resurgence of Jewish life in a way that you start to group with your in group when things are tough. When people get together, I think there is limitless possibilities to a resurgence and what the Jewish community can achieve and the alliances that we can make with other communities. So I am, I am hopeful. I’m just I’m a little less hopeful about the long term future. If I’m going to be honest.

Julian Leeser

So what do you think we need to do? You and I are both parliamentarians in our respective countries who will try and restore all the October 6th position, if I could call it that. For Jewish communities and for our countries. Both in our own countries, but across the West more broadly.

Melissa Lantsman

I think you and I, I think everybody on this call, I don’t think it’s a job of a politician. Everybody that has ever tried to attack the Jews has been relegated to the trash can of history and making sure that we continue to stand strong. On the right side of history with moral clarity. I think history has a way of rewarding that position, and it might not be today, and that might be difficult and it’s easy for me to say because my job doesn’t depend on it. And I know that there are others who will feel threatened in their in their work, in their social circles.

I think it’s important to maintain the strength that we’ve had since October 7th and we will return, maybe not to a world that was October 6th, maybe a very, very different world. But investing in our own community, in our own education, in making sure that we have friends and allies showing up where they need us to show up. This is not enough to expect them to come to rallies in support of the community. If we’re not going to be front and centre in the women life freedom movement or if we’re not going to be front and centre in the rights of Hindus in your country and in mine. It takes showing up.

I’ve always showed up. I will continue to show up and I know that I have to do more of it and I know that people on this call if you did one thing more today than you did yesterday, I think we’re going to win this fight. It just might take a little longer than you expected.

Julian Leeser

Well, it’s just one final question because I think it’s a nice note to end on. When you think about non-Jewish people in Canada that have stood up and surprised you in in a really positive way since the 7th of October. What comes to mind is a particular individual or a particular actor? Is there something that’s been quiet and symbolic, or that’s been loud and noisy?

When you think of something that inspires you and gives you hope about the future of Canada and the future of position in the Jewish community because of the strength of others and supporting us. What do you think of?

Melissa Lantsman

I’m inspired by a few voices that I’ve heard on in the non-Jewish community sort of coming out and always saying the right thing. I can think of one. One lady in particular. You gotta look this lady up. Her name is Victoria Mancinelli, she’s the daughter of one of the big private sector unions. And in her own right very, very successful. But every single day in every single way she is standing up for something that she has nothing to do with because she knows it’s the right thing to do and it’s people like that that we need to encourage. Put on a on a pedestal. And there are so many. So I’m encouraged by some of the unlikely voices.

I’m encouraged that this is not a unique to Canada problem, that other democracies are having this problem and as history has always shown, the victor has been on the right side from the beginning. So I’m going to continue to stand there and I love the support that we’re getting across the pond for the positions that we take and I hope that it gives you some solace, as it has for my own community here to know that there are voices like mine and there are a few that that are coming up the ranks that will continue to add to that chorus.

Julian Leeser

Well Melissa, it’s just been a Tour de Force today. Thank you so much and thank you so much for getting up so early to talk to a group of Australians today who have a great interest in these issues.

We have a very famous Australian Holocaust survivor who sadly passed, called Eddie Jaku, who wrote a book called The Happiest Man on Earth and his grandson Marc has been on the call. He sent a note here and I’d just like to read it because I think Marc speaks for so many of us. He says “Melissa is incredibly impressive. I feel encouraged for Canada’s future and the future of Canada’s Jewish community because of her. Thank you for allowing us to hear from both of you and keep up the good fight for our common values.”

So Melissa, thank you so much. I wish you well in your day today a sitting day in the Canadian Parliament and most importantly, in the Canadian elections that you have in the next year or so and in your continued fight for good government and for the interests of freedom loving people, including the Jewish. Community of Canada. Thank you so much.

Melissa Lantsman

Thanks so much for having me. Thank you.

Julian Leeser

All the best and thank you to everyone else for joining us this evening for a great conversation. I wish you all good night.

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