Former Conservative Party of Canada candidate Chani Aryeh-Bain has alleged that the party would not allow her to seek its nomination in the riding of Thornhill, Ont. due to her religious observance, in a press release posted to her Facebook page.
Aryeh-Bain had previously run for Parliament under the Conservative banner in 2019, when she was the candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton—Lawrence.
Thornhill, where Aryeh-Bain was attempting to seek the nomination, is known to have one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in Canada. In her statement, she said:
On March 3, 2021, the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) governing body voted to block an Orthodox Jewish candidate from seeking the CPC’s nomination in Thornhill, a riding with one of the largest Orthodox Jewish populations in the country.
The CPC barred me from running – of course I’m very disappointed,” said Chani Aryeh-Bain, adding: “I find it shocking, in this day and age, that the CPC would exclude a candidate because of her religious observance.”
Opposition to Aryeh-Bain’s candidacy seems to have started with the local CPC elite in Thornhill. In an official interview on February 24, local Tories grilled her on the issue of her faith observance. Various Thornhill CPC officials repeatedly suggested that, as a strict Sabbath observer, it would be difficult or impossible for Aryeh-Bain to effectively campaign in the upcoming election. Doubt was cast on her ability to properly represent Thornhill as MP, if elected. Her Sabbath and other religious observance were cited as the cause of concern.
Aryeh-Bain vigorously defended both the right and the ability of Sabbath observers to stay faithful to their religious observance while participating as equal members of a tolerant, multireligious, multi-ethnic society. “The sentiment that Sabbath observers cannot, or should not, aspire to public office in this country is a form of anti-religious bigotry, pure and simple,” said Aryeh-Bain, “but for the CPC to apply such bigotry in such a way as to exclude someone from participating in public life? That is reprehensible.”
“I understand that the local CPC elite in Thornhill felt threatened by my candidacy, but the central CPC had an obligation to protect both my right to run, and the right of the local rankand-file, grassroots members to decide for themselves who should represent them,” said Aryeh-Bain. “The days of the ‘political backroom’ blocking of candidates should be over – the local members should be allowed to decide who is suitable to represent them."
Aryeh-Bain had been told, unofficially, that the local Thornhill CPC advised CPC headquarters against her name being put on the ballot. On Monday March 1st, the CPCs “National Candidate Selection Committee” – a subcommittee of the party’s National Council – met and decided to “red light” Aryeh-Bain’s candidacy. There is speculation that some of the party’s key political staff urged this committee to ban Aryeh-Bain from running.
As per the CPC nomination rules, Aryeh-Bain then appealed this decision to the full CPC National Council which on March 3 voted narrowly to uphold the ban, again, under heavy lobbying from party operatives.
“Some influential people in the Conservative Party seem to have an agenda to exclude ‘religious people’ from getting party nominations. This week, the CPC have added Sabbath-observing Orthodox Jews to their hit list,” said Chani Aryeh-Bain.
The Thornhill CPC members will vote online between March 15 to 17 for one of the two remaining candidates, both of whom are Jewish women, but neither are strict Sabbath observers.
Aryeh-Bain first came to public attention in the 2019 federal election when, as the official CPC candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence - another riding with a strong Orthodox Jewish population - she led a vocal protest against the predetermined federal election date of October 21, 2019.
The voting days for that election, including the official “advance poll dates”, were in direct conflict with the Jewish holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret, making it particularly difficult for religious and observant Jews to vote. After Aryeh-Bain’s efforts, Elections Canada did not actually change the election date, but did help to mitigate the situation by providing “pop-up” voting locations on extra days in select neighbourhoods. They also consulted Aryeh-Bain on the list of Jewish holidays so that this would not happen again in the future.
“After my efforts to get Elections Canada to accommodate religious Jews in that election, I would have thought the CPC would have welcomed me again as a candidate. Does the CPC leadership have something against religious minorities in general, or just religious Jews in particular?”
In a statement provided to Rebel News, Cory Hann, Director of Communications for the Conservatives, defended the nomination decision by saying:
That claim is absolutely ridiculous. We never confirm why a nomination applicant doesn’t move forward in the process but I will say that her claim that it’s because she’s Orthodox Jewish is patently false.
Various other people close to the story alleged that staff of the Conservative Party of Canada weren't happy with the election campaign that Aryeh-Bain ran previously. It was alleged that Aryeh-Bain's religious observance was a nuisance in some scenarios, as she didn't shake hands with members of the opposite sex as part of Jewish modesty laws of "shomer negiah," which prohibit such physical interactions.
Nathan McMillan, chief of staff to current Thornhill MPP Gila Martow, who is also seeking the federal nomination, told Rebel News: "Today is the last day for Conservative Party members to verify their identity to vote in the Thornhill nomination race. Gila and her team are committed to engaging Conservative supporters in this process and building upon the deep relationships we have built within the Jewish community over many years."
Melissa Lantsman who is also seeking the Conservative nomination in Thornhill told Rebel News: "Last week, I wrote a letter to the Party in support of Chani’s right to seek the nomination in this riding. I believe that I am the best person for the job, and I fully intend to win this campaign. But I want to win through a true democratic process, as part of a party that is committed to upholding that process, because that’s who we are as Conservatives. I am the only candidate in this race to have done so. The members deserve a free and fair election."