The Métropolitain

How Harel spent some public bucks

Par Beryl Wajsman le 1 octobre 2009

By Beryl Wajsman and Dan Delmar

 

Although Vision Montreal mayoralty candidate Louise Harel is quick to criticize her opponent, Gérald Tremblay, for allegedly misappropriating public funds, she too has questions to answer about how government dollars have been spent under her watch.

louise-harel-cmyk.jpgFor two consecutive years, the Quebec government funded a month-long event called “Rhythms for Palestine,” which featured films and musical performances. Although the legitimacy of funding the events in 2000 and 2001 is not being called into question, the source of the grants is curious. 

The program was funded by Harel’s former ministry, Affaires municipales et de la Métropole, to the tune of $50,000 for the 2001 edition. Also curious is the fact that the event was organized by a charity group called Medical Aid for Palestine-Canada (MAP). The group’s president is Edmond Omran, Harel’s long-time partner.

In a 2000 session of the National Assembly, Liberal MNAs went after Harel for her ministry granting MAP an additional $11,000 grant from her discretionary budget. 

“Je voudrais qu’on puisse m’indiquer en quoi ça fait avancer la cause municipale d’avoir donné une subvention de 11 000 $ à l’Aide médicale pour la Palestine,” asked MNA Roch Cholette. Harel responded by pointing out that many different ethnic groups received funding from her ministry: “J’y vais au hasard, bien évidemment.”

MAP is not to be confused with Medical Aid for Palestinians, an international NGO that offers services to those in need in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon. Omran’s MAP is a Quebec-based organization that promotes Palestine-related issues in the province. According to the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, MAP has also “used its tax-exempt status to solicit donations to finance a legal fund,” for Palestinian plaintiffs who filed suit last year against three Canadian corporations, accusing them unlawful construction in the West Bank. 

louise-harel1-300x200bw.jpgHarel has a history of strongly supporting Palestine and condemning Israel, speaking at numerous pro-Palestine rallies since she was first elected to the National Assembly in 1981. In June of last year, only months before she would resign as MNA for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, she presented as motion in the Assembly calling that the Quebec government “recognize publically that the Nakba (the day of ‘catastrophe,’ when Israel was created) is a historic injustice done to Palestinians.” Harel’s motion goes on to describe Gaza as an “open-air prison” and chastises Israel for disobeying international law. The motion was not adopted by the Charest government. 

While Harel was speaker of the National Assembly – a position requiring a fair amount of impartiality – she participated in a pro-Palestine march in 2002, raising the ire of the Canadian Jewish Congress and causing Liberals, in opposition at the time, to question whether she was fit for the job. It wasn’t the only time Harel had used her position in government to further personal interests.

Also in 2002, Harel chaired l’Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (AFP) meeting in Berne, Switzerland, where, in her opening comments, telling delegates to be vigilant in their defence of the French language and warned of “la menace Anglophone.”