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Jewish groups condemn Green Party leader's Nazi comments

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:00 p.m. May 1, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Two of the country's leading Jewish human rights groups are  condemning Green Party leader Elizabeth May's comments comparing  Prime Minister Stephen Harper's handling of the climate change issue to pre Second World War Nazi appeasement.    
 
Over the weekend, May delivered a sermon to a congregation in Southern Ontario in which she said Harper and his Conservative government's handling of the climate change issue was worse than former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Nazi Germany shortly before the Second World War and the ensuing Holocaust.  

May also attacked U.S. President George W. Bush and said that he was part of a group of evangelical Christians that welcomed an environmental apocalypse. 

"They are waiting for the end time in glee and they unfortunately include (U.S.) President (George W.) Bush," the London Free Press quoted her as saying. 

May stood by her comments in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen that was published on Tuesday. 

Since then both the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith Canada have written letters or issued statements expressing shock at the Green Party leader's statements. 

"The Nazi analogy shows May's insensitivity to context and history," Ed Morgan, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote in a letter that he sent to the PMO Tuesday.  

"Her comparison of Stephen Harper to Neville Chamberlain is both demagogic and inappropriate, revealing that the Green Party leader is still too green to have learned to control her excesses of rhetoric."

Frank Dimant, executive vice President of B'nai Brith Canada, said in a statement that he has written to May to express concern over the comments. 
 
"The evoking of the Nazi era by the Green Party leader in order to score political points is insensitive to those who lived through this dark time," Dimant said. 

May's comments also came to the floor of the House of Commons during question period where the prime minister attempted to tar Liberal Leader Stephane Dion with May's controversy. 

Dion and May recently announced a non-aggression pact in which the Liberals will not field a candidate in the Central Nova riding where May is running in the next election. 

The deal has been criticized privately by numerous Liberal MPs and officials who question Dion's judgement in making a deal with a party that has no seats in the House of Commons. 

Harper read excerpts from Morgan's letter and urged Dion on three separate occasions to distance himself from the Green leader.  

"The Leader of the Opposition hitched his wagon to this individual," the PM said. "I hope he will distance himself from those kinds of remarks."

Dion never addressed the issue in the House and Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff accused the prime minister of trying to change the channel from the ongoing detainee controversy the Liberals have been focusing on in question period for over week. 

After question period, Dion, who himself has often referred to Harper as a "climate-change denier,"  told reporters that May should withdraw the comments regarding Nazi appeasement.

He said he "understands" both why the groups are upset and what May was trying to do, noting that academics and authors often use the Chamberlain comparison when discussing inaction on issues such as poverty and the environment. 

"We should not use it because for the very reason that in the spectrum of horror the Nazi regime is beyond any comparison," he said. 

Dion said he was not aware of May's other comments about evangelical Christians and President Bush. He also defended his deal with May when reporters asked him if it is creating unexpected headaches and embarrassment. 

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty called May's comments "over the top" and "unacceptable."

"I think she should apologize," he said. 

McGuinty also put a large amount of distance between his party and May and said the Liberal party should not have to be held responsible for what May says. 

Even though Dion has said May should be in Parliament, McGuinty denied that Dion has ever endorsed May. 

"We didn't endorse the candidate," he said. "We said that we are going to facilitate the potential entrance of a new leader of the Green Party in the House of Commons. It's in keeping with a Parliamentary tradition." 

"We don't take responsibility for everything Elizabeth May says no more than she should take responsibility for everything my leader says," he added. 

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