NDP MPs Peggy Nash and Nycole Turmel speak to the media Dec. 3, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - The federal New Democrats refuse to criticize the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) for sending a delegation to a controversial "Free Palestine" conference in Brazil last week.
Critics call the conference anti-Israel, but NDP leader Thomas Mulcair didn't take a position Monday on whether it was appropriate for CUPW to attend.
"You're going to have to ask the CUPW about that," said Mulcair.
Despite his party's ties to unions, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar claimed ignorance about the controversy.
"I actually don't know about this conference and I certainly wouldn't comment on an internal affair," said Dewar.
The conference by the left-wing World Social Forum promoted boycotts of Israel, included presentations about Israeli "apartheid" and called for Israel to release from prison Ahmed Saadat - the former leader of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
CUPW wants Canada Post to cover the cost of sending five people to the conference, but the post office has refused.
The union is now considering filing a grievance.
Liberals and Conservatives, on the other hand, were vocal in their criticism of CUPW's attendance.
"I don't think it's very appropriate," said interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. "I certainly don't think it's appropriate for the post office to be asked to pay for it."
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre slammed any conference that would side with the PFLP.
"For a union purporting to represent workers in Canada to attend a conference that supports the liberation of that group's leader is indefensible," he said.