Person

Michael Ignatieff

Nationality:

Canadian

Born:

1947

Occupation:

Former Canadian Politician, Former President of the Central European University

Party:

Canadian Liberal Party

Michael Ignatieff is a writer, former Canadian politician, and former president of the Central European University. [1] He acted and later served as the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Leader of the Opposition from 2008 until 2011; he resigned after a “historic defeat” in the 2011 Canadian federal election that had seen the Liberal Party relegated to third-largest and cost it the status of Official Opposition. [2] [3]

Ignatieff has worked in academic positions at institutions including Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto. [4] [5]

His political opponents criticized Ignatieff for referring to Ukrainians in a 1993 book as “little Russians” and writing that Ukrainian independence creates the image of “phoney [sic] Cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites,” though Ignatieff said the statements were taken out of context. [6] Ignatieff has also been criticized for his comments on the bombing of Qana in Lebanon in 2006, in which civilians were accidentally killed when Israeli forces targeted Hezbollah terrorists. He had said that he was not “losing sleep about that” in a larger statement on the nature of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. [7]

Career

Education

Michael Ignatieff received a BA Honours degree in history at the University of Toronto in 1969. He continued his studies at Harvard University where he earned a Ph.D. in history in 1976. He also earned a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University in 1978. [8]

Journalism

Ignatieff worked as a freelance broadcaster and journalist in London from 1985 until 2000 and during that time was also an editorial columnist for The Observer in London from 1989 to 1991. He was also a contributing writer for the New York Times from 2000 until 2005. [9]

Teaching

Ignatieff began his career as an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia in Canada from 1976 to 1978. He was named a senior research fellow at Kings College, Cambridge in England from 1978 until 1984. Ignatieff was a professor of practice and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 2000 to 2005. [10]

After his time in Canadian electoral politics, Ignatieff returned to education to become a senior resident fellow for Massey College at the University of Toronto from 2011 until 2012. He stayed at the university as a professor for the Munk School of Global Affairs from 2012 until 2013. [11]

Ignatieff was a professor of practice at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 2013 to 2016. [12]

Central European University

Ignatieff worked as the president and rector of the Central European University (CEU) from 2016 until 2021 when he stepped down as president and rector and became a professor of history at the university. [13]  The Central European University is a graduate-level, English-language university accredited in the U.S. and Hungary that was founded by left-of-center activist, financier, and philanthropist George Soros in 1991. Central European University Budapest Foundation (CEUBF) operates as the host of CEU, determining the budget and providing for the educational, research, and general operations of the university. [14] [15]

Soros announced in January 2020 that the Central European University and Bard College were jointly launching the Open Society University Network (OSUN), an international membership group of educational institutions established to promote the ideals of “open society” and to expand access to higher education for underprivileged groups. [16]

The Central European University was forced to move from Budapest to Vienna, Austria after the Hungarian government passed a higher education law in April 2017 specifically to curtail the influence of Soros-funded social institutions. Under the controversial law, the Hungarian government has the legal right to deny any inter-government proposal within its borders. [17]

Ignatieff called the forced move of the university from Budapest to Vienna a “scandal, absolutely unprecedented and a potentially sinister portent for the future,” adding that there could be a “democratic recession” due to CEU’s move. [18]

Politics

Michael Ignatieff was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons in Canada from 2006 until 2011. During that time Ignatieff was the deputy leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2007 until 2008. After Stephane Dion, the leader of the party, stepped down from his position when the party dropped from 103 seats in parliament to 77, Ignatieff was made interim leader in December 2008. With that elevation, he became Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada. [19]

Ignatieff was made the official leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in May 2009 without opposition. He unsuccessfully attempted to force an election in September 2009. The election was finally held in March 2011, after the Conservative Party government lost a no confidence vote in Parliament. [20]

Ignatieff’s Liberal Party suffered a “historic defeat,” in which the Conservative Party won 167 seats in parliament, the New Democratic Party of Canada became the official opposition party with 102 seats, and the Liberal Party fell to an all-time low of 34 seats with just 18.9% of the popular vote. Ignatieff resigned as the party leader the day after the election. [21]

Controversy

Writing

Ignatieff has written several fiction and non-fiction books including Just a Measure of Pain in 1978, Blood and Belonging in 1993, and On Consolation in 2021. [22]

During his political career, his political opponents printed a pamphlet that contained excerpts from Blood and Belonging in which Ignatieff referred to Ukrainians as “little Russians.” Ignatieff also claimed that Ukrainian independence creates the image of “phoney [sic] Cossacks in cloaks and boots, nasty anti-Semites.” [23]

These quotes angered members of the Ukrainian community in Toronto and there were protests outside of the Liberal Party’s headquarters after Ignatieff’s announcement that he was running for office. One protester said that Ignatieff “did not recognize Ukrainian as a language,” adding that he also “did not recognize Ukrainians as a people with their own culture, their own history.” [24]

Ignatieff claimed that the quotes were taken out of context, claiming his writing was referencing Ukrainian stereotypes. [25]

Israel-Hezbollah War Statements

Ignatieff was heavily criticized for comments he made about the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. He called for a United Nations force to patrol a zone between Israeli forces and Hezbollah insurgents in Lebanon after civilians in the village of Qana were accidentally killed by Israeli forces during a bombing raid on Hezbollah insurgents. [26] [27]

During an interview, Ignatieff said that “Qana was frankly inevitable in a situation in which you have rocket-launchers within 100 yards of a civilian population,” adding that “this is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.” Ignatieff added that the situation was a “tragedy” and “unfortunately a victory for Hezbollah.” [28]

Ignatieff then referred to the bombing as a “war crime” by Israel during a television appearance later in the year. After his Toronto campaign co-chair withdrew his support over the comment, Ignatieff changed his stance, calling himself a “lifelong friend of Israel,” adding that “war crimes were visited on Israeli civilians, and they were visited on Lebanese civilians.” [29]

References

  1. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  2. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  3. Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif. “Timeline: Michael Ignatieff’s Bumpy Political Career.” National Post. May 5, 2011. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/timeline-michael-ignatieffs-bumpy-political-career. ^
  4. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  5. Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif. “Timeline: Michael Ignatieff’s Bumpy Political Career.” National Post. May 5, 2011. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/timeline-michael-ignatieffs-bumpy-political-career. ^
  6. “Ignatieff’s Past Comments on Ukraine in Tory Pamphlet.” CTVNews. June 19, 2009. https://www.ctvnews.ca/ignatieff-s-past-comments-on-ukraine-in-tory-pamphlet-1.409344. ^
  7. “CTV.ca: Ignatieff Admits Gaffe over Mideast Conflict.” CTV.ca. August 10, 2006. Accessed November 1, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20080620075602/http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060810/ignatieff_mideast_060810?s_name=&no_ads=. ^
  8. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  9. ““Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  10. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  11. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  12. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  13. “Biography.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 19, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/biography/. ^
  14. “George Soros – Open Society Founder and Chair.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed November 1, 2021, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/george-soros. ^
  15. “Intézményi Dokumentumok.” Central European University. Accessed November 1, 2021, https://www.ceu.edu/hu/kee/szervezet/dokumentumok. ^
  16.  George Soros Announces Global Initiative to Transform Higher Education.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/newsroom/george-soros-launches-global-network-to-transform-higher-education. ^
  17. Palko Karasz. “Hungary’s Parliament Passes Law Targeting George Soros’s University.” New York Times. April 4, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/world/europe/hungary-george-soros-university.html. ^
  18. Sean Coughlan. “West ‘Failed’ University Forced from Hungary.” BBC News. June 27, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48792790. ^
  19. Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif. “Timeline: Michael Ignatieff’s Bumpy Political Career.” National Post. May 5, 2011. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/timeline-michael-ignatieffs-bumpy-political-career. ^
  20. Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif. “Timeline: Michael Ignatieff’s Bumpy Political Career.” National Post. May 5, 2011. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/timeline-michael-ignatieffs-bumpy-political-career. ^
  21. Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif. “Timeline: Michael Ignatieff’s Bumpy Political Career.” National Post. May 5, 2011. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/timeline-michael-ignatieffs-bumpy-political-career. ^
  22. “Books.” Michael Ignatieff. Accessed October 21, 2021, https://michaelignatieff.ca/books/. ^
  23. “Ignatieff’s Past Comments on Ukraine in Tory Pamphlet.” CTVNews. June 19, 2009. https://www.ctvnews.ca/ignatieff-s-past-comments-on-ukraine-in-tory-pamphlet-1.409344. ^
  24. “Toronto Group Opposes Ignatieff Election Bid.” CTV Toronto. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20060427165903/http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20051127/ignatieff_election_051127/20051127/?hub=TorontoHome. ^
  25. “Ignatieff’s Past Comments on Ukraine in Tory Pamphlet.” CTVNews. June 19, 2009. https://www.ctvnews.ca/ignatieff-s-past-comments-on-ukraine-in-tory-pamphlet-1.409344. ^
  26. “CTV.ca: Ignatieff Admits Gaffe over Mideast Conflict.” CTV.ca. August 10, 2006. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20080620075602/http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060810/ignatieff_mideast_060810?s_name=&no_ads=. ^
  27. “Israel to Suspend Air Attacks for 48 Hours after Qana Deaths.” The Guardian. July 31, 2006. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jul/31/israel.syria1. ^
  28. ““CTV.ca: Ignatieff Admits Gaffe over Mideast Conflict.” CTV.ca. August 10, 2006. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20080620075602/http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060810/ignatieff_mideast_060810?s_name=&no_ads=. ^
  29. “Campaign Organizer Abandons Ignatieff over War Crimes Comment.” Canada.com. October 12, 2006. Accessed November 1, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20070313175041/http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/story.html?id=80789bca-0e55-4e09-a027-9766b4deb520&k=3758. ^
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