In the lead up to the Canadian election on September 20, a friend of mine voted at an advance poll for Sidney Coles, the New Democratic Party candidate running in the heavily Jewish riding of Toronto-St Paul’s, which is held by Carolyn Bennett of the ruling Liberal Party.
Several days on, he regrets his choice, having learned that she posted anti-Israel tweets on Twitter that sound an awful like antisemitic conspiracy theories.
The Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies exposed Coles’ harebrained tweets on September 12. The following day, she issued an apology for having posted “unsubstantiated theories about the vaccine supply linked to Israel.”
Acknowledging that her tweets were not based on evidence and admitting that she had disseminated a “common antisemitic trope,” Coles said this had never been her intent. “I should not have made this link and apologizes and retract those statements,” she wrote. “I will continue to stand firmly against antisemitism, racism and discrimination in all its forms.”
On the same day, an NDP spokesman said that Coles’ baseless tweets were “wrong and hurtful.” Disappointingly enough, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has remained deafeningly silent.
Coles, an equity consultant, fired off four tweets last January in response to stories or tweets about the management of Covid-19 vaccines under the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump.
On January 29, a Twitter user named @FoxyLustyGrover claimed that millions of vaccines were “still unaccounted for” and blamed the Trump administration for incompetency. To which Coles replied, “Uh I think Israel might be able to help you solve the mystery.”
Replying to a thread two days later about Trump’s senior advisor, Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, Coles wrote, “They (the vaccines) went to Israel. I keep saying this.”
In reply to another tweet regarding vaccines, she wrote, “They went to Israel.”
And when yet another Twitter user wrote, “I wonder how much vaccine Jared Kushner ripped off,” Coles repeated her untrue mantra, “They went to Israel.”
Knowingly or not, Coles was recklessly playing into the hands of noxious antisemitic conspiracy theorists who are viciously trying to pin the pandemic on Jews. In the annals of antisemitism, Jews are the ultimate scapegoats, there to be blamed for all the ills, misfortunes and miseries of the world.
Coles could not have chosen a worse time to vent her animus toward the Jewish state. We live in an era when there has been an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes in Canada, a disproportionate of which have been directed at the Jewish community.
Correctly calling Coles’ tweets an “antisemitic dog whistle,” Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the policy director of the The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said, “We are living in a moment right now where we are seeing massive and dangerous misinformation being shared on social media about the pandemic, and about Jews.”
I have no idea whether Coles is antisemitic, her condemnation of antisemitism notwithstanding. But I’m certain that her tweets aid and abet haters of Israel and antisemites. Certainly, my friend who cast his ballot for her rues the day he voted for her.
In the future, the NDP should exercise much more caution in vetting its candidates. Judging by her ill-informed remarks, Coles should never have been chosen to run, particularly in a constituency like Toronto-St. Paul’s, which has one of the biggest Jewish populations of any riding in this country.
Coles’ insensitivity is a telling commentary on her temperament and outlook.
P.S. About an hour after I posted this piece, Coles resigned, though her name will remain on the ballot.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, calling her tweets “unacceptable,” said on September 15: “I want to be very clear: their comments were completely wrong and have no place in our party.”