Yesterday in Parliament – May 14, 2019
House of Commons
Madam Chair, I will not ask again in the interests of time.
I want to go to another important matter facing Canada, and that is the implications of Quebec’s Bill 21, a government initiative that would ban newly-hired public servants, including teachers, police officers, lawyers and judges from wearing religious symbols at work. Quebec will be the first jurisdiction in North America to do that.
According to the Prime Minister, this would legitimize religious discrimination. However, according to the Premier of Quebec, trainee teachers who wanted to wear religious clothing should choose a different career. We have something called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it seems that the Quebec government has chosen to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
I very clearly would like to ask the Minister of Justice this. How does he intend to address this initiative when it comes before courts?
Madam Chair, it would be a pleasure. As the Prime Minister has stated, we are the party of the charter and we will defend individual rights at every stage.
With respect to the particular process that is now going on in Quebec, it is within the purview of the national assembly in Quebec to go through the legislative hearing stage. That is where it is at. Therefore, we do not yet know what the final parameters of the bill will be, if and when it passes into law. When that happens, we will make a decision at that stage with respect to how we will react. The Prime Minister has enunciated the principles in which we believe. As the Minister of Justice and as a Quebecker, I am watching that process carefully. I am following it.
We will be prepared to act when we have a final product, but for the time being it is in the hands of the national assembly. It is its jurisdiction. There is a robust debate going on within Quebec by Quebeckers on that very issue.
May 13, 2019
Please note that on May 13, 2019, Bill C-81, an Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada, was read a third time and passed. For the full transcript, please click here.
May 14, 2019
Orders of the Day
Motion Pertaining to the Condemnation of Anti-Semitic Initiatives—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Linda Frum, pursuant to notice of April 3, 2019, moved:
That, in light of Global Affairs Canada’s provision of international aid to groups that do not align with Canadian values and stated Canadian policy, the Senate now:
(a) recall Prime Minister Trudeau’s numerous condemnations of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, including his reference to them as a “new form of anti-Semitism”;
(b) recall the 2016 motion in the House of Commons, supported by the Liberal and Conservative parties alike, to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad”;
(c) recall that Global Affairs Canada has recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which identifies “double standards”, denials of the Jewish right to self-determination, and therefore BDS campaigns as anti-Semitic;
(d) recall that Canada’s Official Development Assistance Accountability Act is meant to ensure that “all Canadian official development assistance is focused on poverty reduction and is consistent with aid effectiveness principles and Canadian values”;
(e) recall that Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy assures that “our assistance is more responsive, more transparent and more predictable”;
(f) recall that Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy prioritizes “peace and security, by promoting inclusive peace processes and combatting gender-based violence”;
(g) recall that Global Affairs Canada assures that “For all humanitarian and development assistance funding for Palestinians, Canada exercises enhanced due diligence”; and
(h) call on the government to:
(i) scrutinize all grants provided by Global Affairs Canada to non-governmental organizations, ensuring Canadian aid is not provided to groups that promote hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, and/or BDS campaigns;
(ii) freeze $1 million in funding to the Palestinian organization “Wi’am: Peace and Conflict Transformation Center” — a group that promotes BDS campaigns and anti-Semitic documents;
(iii) review the entirety of the $4.8 million “Women of Courage — Women, Peace and Security” grant to the United Church of Canada (and its KAIROS Canada program), as such groups are partners of Wi’am and also promote BDS and anti-Semitic documents; and
(iv) ensure that support for women’s involvement in peace processes is inclusive, and not discriminatory, as support for civil society actors that promote BDS campaigns is antithetical to these objectives.
She said: Honourable senators, to his credit, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has many times voiced his condemnation of the international anti-Semitic movement known as BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, Israeli products, Israeli academics and Israeli services.
“Canada will continue to speak out in the most forceful way against movements like BDS,” said Prime Minister Trudeau most recently during the state visit to Canada of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
In 2016, the Prime Minister, along with his Liberal Party colleagues, voted to support a Conservative Party motion which formally denounced BDS and which called on the Government of Canada to:
. . . condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.
The Prime Minister has also said he opposes the BDS movement as a whole because it is, “ . . . an example of the new form of anti-Semitism in the world.” And he is entirely right about that. While I applaud the Prime Minister for his words, are they matched by the actions of his government? In 2018, the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, began funding a project by the United Church of Canada under their KAIROS Initiatives program. The purpose of the funding, which runs from March 2018 to March 2022, was to support a program that will:
. . . empower women to contribute to inclusive, equitable and sustainable “peace with justice” in conflict zones where women are at particular risk.
This KAIROS Initiative received over $4.7 million of taxpayer money for work in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, the Philippines, the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza portion of the funds amount to virtually $1 million or a quarter of the total grant.
To execute the West Bank and Gaza project, the United Church of Canada partnered on the ground with Wi’am, a Palestinian NGO with a very checkered history on matters of peace in the Middle East. Wi’am’s support for BDS is wide and varied. Wi’am actively and deliberately promotes BDS as a vehicle to attack the Jewish state and its supporters. They support it in their activities, official statements, on their website and on their social media. This is undeniable and it is on the public record for anyone to see.
When this misuse of Canadian funding was brought to the attention of Global Affairs Canada by the international group NGO Monitor, I am told that rather than pulling the funding and initiating an immediate internal review of their vetting process, the department decided to simply add a provision into the grant that no Canadian funds would be used to promote BDS.
Honourable colleagues, I ask you, is this a credible or coherent policy? Clearly it is not, which is why I have moved the motion that is before you today. The motion calls on the government to act now to cut funding to Wi’am, an organization unaligned with Canadian values. Global Affairs officially recognizes the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which includes BDS. Therefore any grant which supports BDS is in violation of Global Affairs’ own guidelines and must be rescinded. The motion also calls on the government to launch a review of how vetting takes place to ensure that such a mistake does not happen again.
The fact is Wi’am is using funds to promote BDS propaganda and the Government of Canada is supporting Wi’am even though it has pledged not to support organizations which support BDS. BDS is an expression of anti-Semitism. It is nothing less than that. Our government has no business funding anti-Semitism in any form.
I am calling on the members of this chamber to support this motion to ask the Government of Canada to rescind any funds which support BDS and for Global Affairs Canada to review its vetting process to avoid the awarding of taxpayer funds to any BDS organization in the future.
Thank you, colleagues. I hope you allow for a swift and speedy passage of this motion before you.
(On motion of Senator Omidvar, debate adjourned.)
Nothing to report.
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