Perhaps you remember the anti-BDS motion that passed in Parliament on February 22nd 2016? Or a similar bill, Bill 202 that was passed and then defeated in the Ontario legislature in May? Such bills are doubtless drafted in order to keep strong ties (the bonds of trade) between Canada and Israel, and, indeed, in the case of the former motion at least, economic concerns won out: it passed by 229 votes to 51. In the debate surrounding the legislation, alas, no one saw as inconsistent the fact that Canada, a country which, in deference to international law, labels Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank as illegal, would support legislation that condemns those who, through the BDS movement, attempt to uphold international law and put an end to human rights abuses and Apartheid.
In about 750 letters that went out to MPs in October 2016, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) voiced its concerns about these and other so-called ‘anti-BDS’ motions. CUSJ was one of 68 signatories to the letter, which pointed out that highly-respected human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the BC and Ontario Civil Liberties Associations (BCCLA and OCLA), censured the motion based on the fact that it could undermine individuals’ right to freedom of speech.
The letter reminds us, too, that beyond the question of free expression, anti-BDS bills should be rejected because BDS is good policy for the Canadian government and BDS is good for international peace. The BDS movement aligns wholly with both international law and Canada’s own foreign policy objectives on Palestine-Israel.