Meagan Fitzpatrick, The Ottawa Citizen; with files from The Canadian Press
There is "no way" Hezbollah will be taken off Canada's list of terrorist organizations, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday.
"We see no chance of Hezbollah being de-listed," Mr. Day told CTV's Question Period.
"We've got this organization that is one of the most vicious, murderous groups in the world today and they're stating clearly that they want the genocide of all Jews and the annihilation of an entire nation, being Israel. There is no way we can (delist a group) that has those kind of horrific plans."
Mr. Day's comments stem from last week's controversy involving three members of Parliament who travelled to Lebanon on a fact-finding mission. Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and NDP MP Peggy Nash suggested Hezbollah should be removed from Canada's list of terrorist organizations. They said that would help the Middle East peace process by facilitating negotiations with Hezbollah.
They later said their comments were misinterpreted and that they believe Hezbollah should continue to be recognized as a terrorist organization.
Mr. Wrzesnewskyj also came under more fire when he was also quoted as saying Israel had committed "state terrorism" during the recent conflict. After relentless criticism from all sides, including his own party, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj stepped down from his position as associate foreign affairs critic.
By then, Conservative MP Jason Kenney, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had compared Hezbollah to the Nazi party of the 1930s, during a press conference to react to the debate stirred by Mr. Wrzesnewskyj and the other MPs.
It was an analogy that Mr. Harper backed up, and yesterday Stockwell Day added to the debate saying the comparison was one that made sense.
"There is a comparison there between the stated intent of the Nazis, and they did act on that intent, and then you've got the stated intent also of Hezbollah to annihilate Jewish people so the historic comparison is clear there," Mr. Day said on CTV.
Mr. Day said the headline-grabbing comparison served to remind people who "may be lulled into complacency" that Hezbollah wants to accomplish the same goal as the Nazis and that Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made remarks to the same effect.
"It's something that the world really needs to be awakened to."
When asked if he is concerned about recent polls that indicate the Conservatives' support is slipping in Quebec because of its policies in the Middle East, Mr. Day said he believes Quebecers will come around.
"We have a principled approach related to the Middle East and I believe over time the people of Quebec will also see this is a principled approach.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Jack Layton called for Canada to contribute 1,200 troops to the UN force that will patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Speaking in Montreal, Mr. Layton rejected Mr. Harper's claim that Canada's presence in Afghanistan has stretched the country's military too thin to contribute to the Lebanon mission.
"We have the capacity, but the prime minister hasn't said so," Mr. Layton said. "We have asked the Harper government to, first of all, tell the truth."
Mr. Layton said his claims are based on an internal government document obtained through access to information laws that he said shows that Canada has military capacity to spare.
He added that committing troops to the UN mission would reflect the wishes of Canadians.
"It's an important objective for Canadians," he said. "They want Canada to be concerned with peacekeeping."
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