(November 27, 2022 / JNS) She’s a Jamaican-born lawyer who immigrated to Canada with her family at age five. She made history by becoming the first woman of color to run for the Conservative Party leadership in Canada and is well-known for tweaking the establishment view with her unabashedly socially conservative opinions. And she’s also a staunch supporter of the State of Israel.
Meet Canadian MP Leslyn Lewis, the new chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, a cross-party faith-based parliamentary lobby that seeks to strengthen the bonds between the two nations.
“The existence of Israel is at the cornerstone of our faith as Christians,” Lewis, who represents Haldimand—Norfolk in southern Ontario, says in a telephone interview with JNS from Ottawa. “As both Canadians and Christians we stand in support of the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Lewis sees a direct link between the increasing levels of antisemitism both in Canada and around the globe and the narrative coming out of the BDS movement that seeks to delegitimize and demonize Israel, conceding that it is becoming increasingly challenging to reach the hearts and minds of the next generation at a time when pro-Israel students are being silenced and demonized on university campuses.
“Young people are more focused on things that pull at their heart-strings—so when you throw out words like racism and Apartheid of course their view is ‘I want to fight against that,’ ” she said. “When they tie it in with racism, it becomes very visceral. As a person of color I can see it.”
The Canadian parliamentarian, who ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party in both 2020 and 2022, cautioned that this viewpoint—which once could be heard primarily among the far-left, is both growing and becoming more mainstream on the left in general.
A complex situation on the ground is further exacerbated by the media which, she says, has bought into the narrative of Israel as an oppressive state.
“You don’t see much positive coming out of Israel” in the media, she said.
In the interview, Lewis said she plans to speak out in Canadian churches against the double standard Israel is held to at the UN, a standard that caught her eye with her two-decade background in international law, as well as to work within the caucus to combat the noxious antisemitism often laced in anti-Israel activity permeating the globe, including within the Black community.
“My voice will be amplified to offer a more complete picture and a more comprehensive analysis of what is happening, “she said. “I want a crystal clear stance with the only democratic nation in the Middle East and a commitment to fight antisemitism.”
Calling Canada’s relations with Israel which dates back to 1949 “one of the most important of our international alliances,” Lewis pledged to work with her colleagues across the aisle to strengthen the bonds between the countries.
“I don’t see Israel as a partisan issue,” she said.
At the same time, she concedes that there is a “big difference” on Israel issues between the major political parties in Canada, offering criticism of some of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party-led government’s policies (“it hasn’t been the kind of support of Israel I would like to see,”), such as not moving the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem. A rising figure within the Conservative Party, Lewis called its newly elected head, Pierre Poilievre, “a strong leader” who is expected to challenge Trudeau in Canada’s next election scheduled for 2025 but widely expected to occur sooner.
Founded a decade and a half ago, the Canadian Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus was among the first in a parliamentary network of 50 pro-Israel caucuses the world over that mobilize political support for Israel based on shared Judeo-Christian values. Run under the aegis of the Israel Allies Foundation, this faith-based powerhouse, which includes the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, the U.S. Congressional Israel Allies Caucus and the European Union Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, is testament to the burgeoning relations between Israel and the predominantly supportive evangelical Christian community around the world.
“Our network continues to reinvigorate and strengthen on the basis of legislators who believe in Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of ties between Canada and Israel,” said Israel Allies Foundation President Josh Reinstein.
Indeed, Lewis, 51, was reared in a home where faith was an integral part of her life.
“When you have structure, young people know what the boundaries are, “she said, noting that many people were craving for spiritual guidance that is not there. “They have such latitude that it is self-destructing.
“We need to teach our youth both respect for yourself and respect for others. Because today many in order to get their way are ready to eliminate others, which we see in the narrative about Israel,” Lewis said.
Looking into the future the goal is creating a reality based on coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, she said. “We need a resolution where both societies can coexist.”