Independent Jewish Voices – Canada (IJV) approached dozens of labour, civil rights, student and community-based organizations from across the country to endorse a statement defending the right of Canadians to freely criticize the State of Israel and employ the tactic of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a legitimate form of protest. The statement, entitled “Oppose the Canadian government’s threat to criminalize criticism of Israel”, condemns the Canadian government’s repeated assaults on the right to freedom of expression regarding this issue.
As of April 14, the statement has 75 organizational endorsements, including from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés, the Green Party of Canada, Québec Solidaire, the National Union of Public and General Employees, and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux. For a full list of organizational endorsements, click here.
The Canadian Labour Congress, with the endorsement of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees, and Unifor, has written their own statement that echoes the concerns of the IJV-initiated statement, which you can read here. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has also issued a similar statement, which you can read here.
Amnesty International Canada came out with its own statement, which you can read here.
Click here to read an IJV-written Frequently Asked Questions regarding the statement below.
Oppose the Canadian Government’s Threat to Criminalize Criticism of Israel
In 2009, the Canadian government gave major support to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA), a group of parliamentarians who accused those challenging Israel’s unjust treatment of Palestinians of being anti-Semitic. The goal of the CPCCA was to create a climate in which criticism of Israel could be criminalized in Canada. Fortunately, that initiative was unsuccessful, thanks to widespread opposition from members of the Canadian public.
In what appears to be another attempt to suppress criticism of Israel, the Canadian government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel which makes the claim that “the selective targeting of Israel is the new face of anti-Semitism” and declares that Canada will oppose those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Shortly after the MOU was signed, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney announced to the UN General Assembly that the Canadian government would exercise “zero tolerance” toward “all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
All this follows on the fact that in October 2014 the Canadian government passed changes to the criminal code in Bill C-13 which expanded the definition of identifiable groups to be protected against public incitement to hatred to include “nations”. This change to Canadian law parallels the situation in France, where alterations to the French penal code have led to the conviction of twenty French citizens who support the BDS movement, on charges of inciting racial hatred.
It is not yet clear how the Canadian government intends to implement a policy of “zero tolerance” to those who exercise their freedom of speech by advocating and participating in boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns to pressure Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians. What is clear, however, is that the Canadian government is determined to target people who expose and oppose Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. Such efforts by the government can only put a chill on Canadian democracy and may lead to the criminalization of such dissent down the road.
We are unequivocal in our condemnation of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. It must be stressed that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the state of Israel. Those who equate such criticism with a hatred of Jewish people are simply attempting to silence Israel’s critics.
In the face of these actions on the part of the Canadian government, we must defend the right of people in a democracy to criticize any government’s behaviour and to participate in boycotts designed to alter that behaviour if they choose to do so.
We, the undersigned organizations, oppose attempts by the Canadian government to criminalize criticism of or opposition to the actions of any country. (There are now 90 organizational endorsements)
Artistes pour la Paix
Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians
l’ASSÉ-Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante
Boundary Peace Initiative
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Coalition
Canadians Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace
Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario
CJPME-Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Canadian Friends of Sabeel
Canada Palestine Association
Canada-Palestine Support Network
Canadian Peace Alliance
CUPW-Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
Le Centre International de solidarité ouvrière
Le Centre Justice et Foi
La Coalition Pas de démocratie sans voix
CUWU-College and University Workers United
Comité de solidarité de Trois-Rivières
Comox Valley Peace Group
CSU-Concordia Students Union
CSN-Confédération des syndicats nationaux
Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain – CSN
Conseil régional FTQ Montréal métropolitain
F4P-Faculty for Palestine
FFQ-Fédération des femmes du Québec
FTQ-Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec
FIQ-Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec
FNEEQ-Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec – CSN
FMC-Forum Musulman Canadien / CMF-Canadian Muslim Forum
FRAPRU-Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain
Green Party of Canada
Graduate Students’ Association, Carleton University
Graduate Students’ Association, Concordia University
Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
Hamilton & District Labour Council
Hamilton & District Labour Council’s Human Rights and Peace Committee
Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council
Independent Jewish Voices – Canada / Voix juives indépendantes – Canada
Indigenous and Civil Unified Sovereign Enactment
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada
Island Peace Committee
Justice for Palestine (McGill Law)
Justice for Palestinians – Calgary
Kelowna Peace Group
La Ligue des Droits et Libertés
Law Union of Ontario
McGill Radical Law Community
Mid-Islanders for Justice & Peace in the Middle East
National Education Committee on Israel-Palestine
National Union of Public and General Employees
Network to Oppose War and Racism – Pacte contre l’Agression, l’Intolérance et la Xénophobie
l’Observatoire Critique des Droits Humains et ImmigrantEs
Ontario Civil Liberties Association
PAJU-Palestiniens et Juifs unis – Palestinian and Jewish Unity
Palestine Solidarity Action Group at the University of Waterloo
Palestinian Student Association – University of Ottawa
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton
Palestine Solidarity Working Group, Sudbury
Peterborough & District Labour Council
Québec Public Interest Research Group – Concordia
Québec Public Interest Research Group – McGill
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Seriously Free Speech Committee
Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – University of Calgary
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – McGill
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – University of Ottawa
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – Carleton
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – University of Toronto
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – York University
SFPP-Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec
STTP-Syndicats des travailleurs et travailleuses des postes – Région du Québec
Toronto Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
United Jewish People’s Order
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine & Israel
University of Regina Faculty Association
University of Winnipeg Student Association
Voice of Palestine
Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
* To add an organization to the list of endorsers, please send the name of the organization in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.