Broadbent Institute head smears Ashton, Robinson and internationalism

Yves Engler
Rick Smith

MARCH 3, 2021

Broadbent Institute head Rick Smith should just be frank and say he hates Palestinians and doesn’t care about internationalism.

On Tuesday Smith tweeted that it was disturbing that NDP MP Niki Ashton was doing an upcoming fundraiser for the Progressive International with former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response to former NDP MP Svend Robinson tweeting, “I look forward to joining this great event with Niki and Jeremy Corbyn and supporting Progressive International”, Smith wrote “this is very unfortunate. In a recent report, the UK’s independent Equality and Human Rights Commission found serial ‘unlawful acts’ of antisemitism in UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

After a wave of criticism Smith doubled down. He tweeted that the Conservative party aligned UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission “report is lengthy, detailed, and makes for sobering and distressing reading. This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders.”

In case some readers are confused by what this battle over Corbyn is about, it boils down to hardcore Israeli nationalists attempting to impose their views on what constitutes anti-Semitism and internationalism on both the British Labour Party and NDP. Essentially the anti-Corbynites demand that Palestinian solidarity be defined as anti-Jewish and that foreign policy in Canada and the UK be non-partisan, which in practice means accepting the status quo.

In other words, despite its supposed “progressive” credentials, the Broadbent Institute is attempting to keep the NDP from moving to a more “internationalist” position in foreign policy. And this has been happening for some time.

At the 2018 NDP convention multiple Broadbent Institute players supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”. At an early morning session prior to the main plenary Smith voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

The Broadbent Institute’s namesake was anti-Palestinian. In 1975 Ed Broadbent called the Palestinian Liberation Organization “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel”. During his time as leader of the NDP Broadbent called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Broadbent reversed the party memberships’ 1969 call for Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. After leaving party politics he headed the Canadian government’s equivalent to the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, Rights and Democracy, for seven years.

Smith’s double standard on who is acceptable to speak at a progressive form is stark. In 2014 the Broadbent Institute’s headline speaker was Julia Gillard. The former Australian prime minister was viciously anti-Palestinian. In 2012, for instance, most of Gillard’s cabinet revolted against her plan to deny Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia ultimately abstained on a resolution backed by most of the world.

In 2014 the Broadbent Institute organized an event with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. Former Chief of Staff to Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Segal was at the time chair of the NATO Association of Canada and a member of SNC Lavalin’s board. The event was sponsored by Loblaws and General Electric Canada.

In 2016 Gloria Steinem spoke to the Broadbent Institute. Steinem was funded by the CIA in her early years and in her 2015 book she wrote, “in my experience The Agency [CIA] was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

In 2019 Michael Coren spoke at the Broadbent Institute’s annual forum. From 2011 until the channel’s demise in 2015 Coren hosted an evening talk show on the hard-right Sun News Network, which spawned Ezra Levant’s Rebel News. Coren opposed same-sex marriages. During Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2014 Coren wrote an Edmonton Sun column noting, “I hate the way the Marxists and their friends who supported Israel in the 50s and 60s now call Israelis Nazis. I hate the way Islamic fanatics pretend to care about the Palestinians when at the same time they slaughter their own people and use those same Palestinians as metaphorical and literal shields.”

The Broadbent Institute claims challenging Canadian foreign policy is outside its purview, which is in of itself a massive concession to the status quo. But it’s far worse than that. Informally the organization’s staff have interceded to suppress a modest Palestine resolution and to undercut the Progressive International.

The Broadbent Institute sucks up significance resources from individuals and institutions with far more universalist values than Smith. These individuals should consider reorienting their money to Canadian Dimension, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Rabble, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Independent Jewish Voices or some of the many other groups plugging away for a better, fairer world.