Columnist Mark Steyn has a well-deserved reputation for engaging controversial issues. He is known for having little patience with those who would limit expression even racist and hateful expression. While Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) might disagree with some of Mr. Steyn’s positions we would have hoped for at least a modicum of accuracy and civility from him when he chooses to be critical of us.
Steyn’s recent column “True North Strong Not Free” (MacLean’s April 12, 2010), focused largely on the controversy over Anne Coulter’s recent visit to Canada. However, Mr. Steyn concluded his piece with a bizarre critique of CJC’s role in the Coulter visit, quoting at length from an alleged CJC declaration. In particular, Mr. Steyn claimed that CJC supported University of Ottawa students for shutting-down Coulter’s lecture; and most absurdly that CJC “characteristically” chose to support anti-Israel activists over pro-Israel friends, that CJC was an “Islamist front organization.”
Here’s the rub, nobody at CJC said the things Mr. Steyn attributes to us. In fact, Mr. Steyn misattributes to CJC quotes from an editorial in the March 25, 2010 issue of the Mississauga News. The only connection to Canadian Jewish Congress is the fact that a link to this editorial, along with links to dozens of other items from various media outlets and expressing diverse points of view, could be found in the “Articles of Interest” section of the CJC website.
Misrepresenting CJC so seriously is a mistake that even rookies don’t make. However, Steyn’s using these misrepresentations to claim, whether seriously or with alleged satirical intent that Canadian Jewish Congress supports anti-Jewish extremists and is an Islamist front is unworthy of a serious journalist. Time was when Mark Steyn was a respected professional whose columns were worth reading whether you agreed with him or not. He has now thrown all that over in order to become a print media shock-jock who is more interested in going on the attack than in discussing ideas. He should have kept his day job.
Bernie Farber, CEO, Canadian Jewish Congress, Ottawa