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Montreal anti-racism commissioner will not attend pro-Palestinian rallies: B'nai Brith

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After a meeting with the City of Montreal Commissioner to Fight Racism and Systemic Discrimination Bochra Manai, the Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith said she will no longer attend pro-Palestinian rallies in the city.

B'nai Brith said that the organization met with Manai on Tuesday.

"We appreciate Manai's willingness to meet us at our regional office to try to make amends," said B'nai Brith Canada's Quebec regional director, Henry Topas. "We are also pleased that she has committed not to attend any further anti-Israel rallies, but the damage has been done."

The city confirmed to CTV News that the meeting took place but did not provide details of what was discussed. 

The city said that Manai is working to strengthen "ties of trust with the Jewish and Muslim Communities."

"The commissioner is committed to listening and hearing all voices," said city spokesperson Camille Begin. "In an open stance, the commissioner reiterated her desire that the ecosystems currently affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestine be listened to by the City of Montreal."

Begin said Manai will continue to tour communities and establish contacts and that other invitations and meetings are being prepared.

Manai faced calls to resign from her position after sharing posts in support of civilians under fire in Gaza, while not denouncing attacks on Jewish institutions in Montreal or the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel.

B'nai Brith and other Jewish organizations in Montreal were particularly critical of Manai's attendance at an Oct. 28 rally where a controversial imam called for "Zionist aggressors" to be exterminated.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault asked for police to intervene after Imam Adil Charkoui made the statements, saying, "It's clear that this is incitement to hatred, to violence."

Manai acknowledged some of the violence against Montreal's Jewish community in at least one post on social media.

"Islamophobic and anti-Semitic reactions are strong, exacerbated by daily life in Palestine over the past 30 days," she wrote. "If the violence in Montreal must be condemned without any ambiguity, it is right here and now to call for an end to the offensive on Gaza."

B'nai Brith wanted her to stop attending rallies and apologize, while the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called on her to resign.

"Her attitude thus far has been unacceptable, as well as unbecoming of someone in her role," said Topas. "The anti-racism commissioner carries significant moral authority and is supposed to be above politics. It is supposed to be a voice for unity and peace, not division and endorsement of violence, even if by silence."

B'nai Brith asked Mayor Valerie Plante's office to endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on Tuesday as a good-faith measure "to overlook Manai's past transgressions."

"While an apology would have been appreciated, she can best support the Jewish community at this point by personally pushing for the City of Montreal to adopt IHRA," said Topas. 

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