Dear Ms. Horwath:
We are writing to let you know that we are pleased that the NDP caucus’ position is to oppose attempts by the Ontario legislature to defame and intimidate Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with their struggle. We thank you for your leadership in this regard; and we thank Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh speaking in the legislature on December 1, 2016, against Motion 36, and the five NDP caucus members in attendance voting against the motion.
We recognize the pressure you and your caucus, had been under, especially Mr. Singh and the other four members who were present for the vote against that motion. We thank the NDP caucus for standing not only for freedom of speech but against conflating Palestine solidarity with antisemitism.
As Deputy Leader Singh astutely pointed out, when a delegation met with him on December 16, 2016, the struggle for justice for Palestinians is not about one interest group, but rather about voices that join together from various contexts, and with the shared vision to hold our own Canadian institutions accountable in their actions to international law and human rights.
We fail to accept that Ontario shares values with a state that holds exclusivity through its laws for one religion, race or ethnicity. To say Ontario shares these values with Israel, a state with over 50 laws that discriminate against non-Jews, is disturbing.
We also fail to accept that Ontario shares values with a state that continues to colonize in the same manner as we have in Turtle Island, even as Ontario seeks to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
We thank you and the NDP caucus’ continuing support to uphold the Canadian government’s own Global Affairs policy on Israel-Palestine; a policy, that is in line with the call from 170+ Palestinian civil society organizations to stand against a regime of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation. This settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation is only possible because of international governments that fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions around the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.
We have appreciated Jagmeet Singh, Peggy Sattler, Peter Tabuns, Jennifer French, yourself and others members of your caucus meeting with delegations over these past few months with regard to Premier Wynne’s statement that a unifying motion would be brought forward.
We are pleased that Peggy Sattler has indicated file a petition regarding this issue when the legislature returns.
It is essential that no legislation be brought forward that criminalizes or punishes support of Palestinians through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), or other non-violent actions. Based on Minister Murray’s comment on December 1, 2016, that we should be doing more “than passing motions” and the indication already that the Conservatives are considering options on how to bring forward legislation, we ask you to keep in touch with us in regard to how we can best support your efforts to ensure that no such legislation comes forward.
We are particularly concerned about the new Code of Conduct adopted by 97 Canadian Universities, as Hillel and CIJA have indicated this will provide university administrations with the tool they need to stop any BDS resolutions and campaigns on Canadian college and university campuses. We look to Peggy Sattler as Critic of Training, Colleges and Universities with regards to messaging to university administrations, and to Jagmeet Singh as Attorney General Critic on the interpretation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Code is meant to provide “place of origin” as a basis to protect individuals against discrimination. This basis should never be used to silence non-violent tactics against the systematic crimes of a foreign state, such as divestment campaigns on college and university campuses. Instead, we should use the measures consistently pressed for by the United Nations, such as Resolutions 242 and 194, as well as the fourth Geneva Conventions (1949) and their additional Protocols (1977), among others.
We remain very concerned about how the motion passed on December 1, 2016 is being described by CIJA as: i) setting the policy for the Ontario government, ii) the hallmark to stop BDS on campuses, and iii) as reflective of the voice of mainstream society.
We are concerned about the chilling effect on civil liberties, but also about the discrimination of Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with them. And so we thank you for your courageous leadership, and look forward to keeping in touch as we work together for a province that reflects the values we hold as important—human rights, civil liberties, and international law.
We wish you and all of your Caucus member all the best for the coming year.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV)
Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
Canadian Arab Federation (CAF)
Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA)
Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario (CUPE-Ontario)
Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-Ontario)
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ)
University of Ontario Institute of Technology/Durham College Students for Justice of Palestine (UOIT/DC SJP)
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights — University of Western Ontario (SPHR-UWO)
Actions for Palestine-Toronto
Palestine Solidarity Working Group –Sudbury
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Windsor
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Toronto
People for Peace – London
University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union Ad Hoc BDS Committee
Cc: Ontario NDP Caucus Members of Parliament