All lobbyists in Canada must file an annual report with the Commissioner of Lobbying indicating WHO they lobbied and WHAT they lobbied about. The report filed from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs shows the breadth of its concerns and the strengths of its contacts with the Liberal Party and senior government officials. Read more…
According to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, there are over 5000 registered lobbyists in Canada trying to influence the policies of the Federal Government. Many corporations lobby to seek commercial advantage. But when it comes to foreign policy, few groups are more influential than the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). CIJA describes itself as “the official representative organizational voice of the Jewish community of Canada” which “articulates the community’s perspectives on key issues of national scope and significance regarding Canada-Israel relations.”
CIJA gets funding from over a dozen local Jewish Federations across Canada. Its total budget is a closely guarded secret. Its head, Shimon Fogel, was identified by Embassy Magazine as “one of the 50 most influential voices” in Canadian foreign policy.
CIJA has offices in a dozen Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Most of its estimated 50 or so staff are located in Ottawa, where top political leaders and our foreign policy bureaucracy is concentrated, and in Toronto, the home of the largest community of Canadian Jews.
A good deal of CIJA lobbying takes place in the form of free trips to Israel for influential Canadians, including MPs, university presidents, Chiefs of police and other decisionmakers. In fact, MPs take more free trips to Israel than to any other destination – all paid for by CIJA.
CIJA lobbies the full alphabet of Canadian federal departments and agencies from Agriculture to Veterans Affairs (there is no department whose name starts with a Z), often in defence of Israel’s interests.
The Lobbying Commissioner’s report notes 165 meetings with a total of 208 federal parliamentarians and bureaucrats between January and November 2018. That’s an average of two contacts each day that Parliament sat during that period. Of course, the report ONLY notes the work of CIJA with respect to the Canadian federal government and bureaucracy. None of its extensive lobbying work with provincial or municipal governments is included.
Lobbying the government is a perfectly legal activity, and exists in all democracies. Contrary to popular opinion, effective lobbyists cannot and do not “twist arms” of politicians. The most effective ones are able to present themselves as allies to politicians scrambling for votes and money.
But some lobbies are better funded and more effective than others. For anyone who wonders why the defenders of Israel seem to have more influence on the Trudeau government than those who defend human rights for Palestinians, the Annual report by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying makes for interesting reading.
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