Beaches-East York MPP Berns-McGown demands apology after “vicious anti-Semitic” attack during Queen’s Park debate

Beaches-East York MPP Rima Berns-McGown. Inset photo, her Twitter comments on why she feels she was the focus of an anti-Semitic verbal attack.

Beaches-East York MPP Rima Berns-McGown is demanding an apology after she said she was “subject to a vicious anti-Semitic attack” by members of the ruling Ontario Progressive Conservative government during a debate at Queen’s Park this morning.

In a series of comments on Twitter made by Berns-McGown (who is an NDP MPP) on Tuesday, April 6 afternoon, she outlined what happened during the debate in the Legislature on the Working for Workers Bill.

The Bill is intended to create a minimum-wage standard for those who work in the “gig” economy in jobs such as ride-share service drivers.

In her Tweet, Berns-McGown said that during the debate she said the Bill (referred to as G88) creates a “gig ghetto – a separate class of workers – and once that precedent is set, it becomes very difficult to take down those metaphorical walls.”

She said in making the comment in the debate she referenced this history of the word ‘ghetto’ as related to 16th century Venice.

“The Venetian city-state was the first to create laws to force Jews to live in this place, but the model was copied across Europe. It took centuries for Jews to be emancipated,” said Berns-McGown. “It was a model followed by colonial conquerors in Canada and later South Africa.”

In her Tweet, she said the speech she made during the debate was “forceful” and called the G88 Bill a step backwards, not forwards for workers and that it took “the side of the exploiter over the exploited.”

After her speech, Berns-McGown said Conservative MPPs verbally attacked her and her position.

“I watched (Paul) Calandra (MPP for Markham-Stouffville), the house leader, come out and speak to gov’t members…” said Berns-McGown.

“Next thing you know, (Will) Bouma (MPP for Brantford-Brant) is up on his feet trying to shame me, twisting my words and accusing me of conflating the bill with the Warsaw Ghetto and Holocaust. Huh? Of course, I had mentioned neither. They had nothing to do with what I was talking about.”

Berns-McGown, who born in South Africa of a mixed background (three of her four grandparents were Ashkenzai Jews and her paternal grandmother was Cape Coloured and an Afrikaner), said she felt the comments by Bouma and then by Mississauga Centre MPP Natalia Kusendova were anti-Semitic and required an apology.

“The attack continued with Kusendova, although she was milder. She had by then heard me say that I am Jewish and lost many extended family members in the Shoah (which is another word for the Holocaust). She realized she was on thin ice,” said Berns-McGown on Twitter. “But nobody apologized.”

Berns-McGown said an apology is needed for the following reasons:

“It is viciously anti-Semitic because 1.) It an anti-Semitic trope to twist the words of Jews to suit a political purpose (see history); 2.) It is an anti-Semitic trope to assume that Jews don’t know their own history or how to talk about it (also see history); #.) It is extremely anti-Semitic for a bunch of non-Jews to tell the ONLY Jew in the Chamber how to talk about the history of the Jewish people or the origin of the word ‘ghetto.’”

She concluded her string of Twitter comments by saying she wanted an apology.

Last month, Berns-McGown announced that she would not be seeking re-election in the June 2 provincial election for a number of reasons including the “toxic” political atmosphere of Queen’s Park. Please see our story at

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