The Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPAC) stands in support of Mr. Birju Dattani’s appointment as Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). We echo and amplify the sentiments expressed by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) regarding the recent attacks on Mr. Dattani’s character and qualifications.

Mr. Dattani’s appointment marks a historic moment as the first person of color and Muslim to hold this pivotal position, underscoring Canada’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity in leadership roles. His extensive experience, particularly as the former leader of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, exemplifies his dedication to upholding human rights principles.

The criticisms leveled against Mr. Dattani by certain media outlets and advocacy groups are deeply concerning and appear to be motivated by political agendas rather than genuine concerns about his ability to uphold impartiality and fairness. Accusations of antisemitism and bias based on events over a decade ago, such as his association with the BDS movement and academic discussions on terrorism, are misleading and fail to acknowledge the nuanced context in which these occurred.

It is crucial to emphasize that support for BDS, a non-violent movement advocating for Palestinian rights, does not equate to antisemitism. Attempts to conflate political criticism of Israeli policies with hatred towards Jewish communities are not only unfounded but also harmful to genuine efforts against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.

Furthermore, the demand that Mr. Dattani accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a condition of his appointment is problematic. The IHRA definition has been criticized by numerous human rights organizations for its potential chilling effect on legitimate political speech and activism concerning Israel-Palestine issues.

CMPAC affirms that political appointments, particularly to critical roles like that of Chief Commissioner of the CHRC, should be based on qualifications, expertise, and a demonstrated commitment to human rights for all Canadians. They should not succumb to undue political pressure or harassment aimed at stifling legitimate discourse on complex international issues.

We call upon Minister Arif Virani and the federal government to uphold the integrity of the appointment process and resist efforts to derail it through smear campaigns and baseless allegations. Mr. Dattani has expressed his commitment to human rights and fairness throughout his career, and we are confident that any independent review will vindicate his suitability for this crucial role.

We urge all Canadians to support him in his upcoming role and reject attempts to undermine his appointment through divisive tactics.