Canada’s NDP Motion – A (Tiny?) Step forward in Palestine Solidarity

Canadian Social Democratic Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Photo: OFL Communications Department, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Yves Engler

This step forward was because hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, heckled politicians, emailed officials, and occupied offices in recent months.

I’m loath to congratulate the NDP for any step they take to lessen Canadian complicity in Israel’s violence since Jagmeet Singh’s Palestine policy swings wildly based on backlash.

But the reaction of some Palestine solidarity voices to the social democratic party’s call for an arms embargo, recognition of Palestine, funding of UNRWA, etc. misses the big picture.

In response to Monday’s opposition day motion the opinion editor at The Maple Davide Mastracci posted to X, “Once again, the NDP has wasted our time.” He linked to a statement showing how the NDP had accepted Liberal demands to water down an already weak resolution. Be that as it may, the motion is a step forward in upending Canadian complicity in Israeli colonialism and violence.

The opposition day motion was the first ever focused on Canadian policy towards Palestine/Israel. Supposed to be debated March 1, the NDP (cowardly) agreed to postpone it after former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s death. This gave Palestine solidarity groups time to flood MPs emails, even propelling the NDP leader to put out a video calling on people to “fill Justin Trudeau’s inbox” in support of it.

The motion led to some mainstream discussion about Canadian arms sales to Israel and how Canada wasn’t one of the 139 countries that had recognized Palestine.

A CBC article about the motion noted, “The Trudeau government has also sought to prevent Palestine from advancing its case for statehood through the courts. Three different Liberal foreign ministers have written to the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court asking it to refuse to hear Palestinian cases.”

The Israel lobby and Israeli officials panicked over a motion calling for a shift in Canada’s slavishly pro-Israel policies. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs organized an e-mail campaign and B’nai Brith released a statement signed by multiple groups and individuals condemning the motion. Israel’s ambassador criticized it while Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz called Trudeau to oppose it.

During a long debate in the House of Commons many MPs made strong statements. La Presse quoted Bloc Quebecois MP Stéphane Bergeron, who I haven’t seen make any statements on the matter, denounce Canadian support for Israel’s “genocidal plan”.

Before the motion was softened the Bloc Quebecois and Greens, as well as some Liberal MPs, announced their support for it. Without the modifications, 100 MPs would likely have supported it. The final motion passed 204-117.

Even the NDP leader’s distortion of the resolution, suggesting he was getting tough on Israel, is a step forward. Singh tweeted, “BREAKING. The vote is in and we have forced the Liberals to: Stop selling arms to the Israeli government, Support the ICC and ICJ, Place sanctions on extremist settlers and much more.” (The post garnered a community correction note that “the motion in question does not ‘force’ the Liberals to do anything” since these types of motions are non-binding.)

The exact wording of a resolution few will read is less important than its political ethos which is that Canada should stop the flow of weapons and introduce other measures to pressure Israel to end its violence and colonialism. It has generated international headlines saying Canada has halted arms sales to Israel.

That’s what the lobby has responded to. United Jewish Appeal of Toronto claimed the House of Commons vote was “a slap in the face not only to our allies in Israel, but also to Jewish Canadians” while Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz posted that “it’s regrettable that the Canadian government is taking a step that undermines Israel’s right to self-defense.” Uber Jewish supremacist Liberal MP Anthony Housefather even threatened to quit the Liberal caucus because of the vote and his party’s MPs applauding NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson who introduced the motion.

Critics of the NDP actions are on strong ground when criticizing the party for accepting modifications to the resolution. From an activist perspective, it would have been preferrable if the NDP forced Liberal MPs to vote against it rather than water it down. That would have given activists another measure to point to of their complicity in genocide when protesting and campaigning against Liberal MPs such as environment minister Steven Guilbeault and tourism minister Soraya Martinez Ferrada who won close races but are far out of step with opinion in their left-wing ridings.

Having said that, we already have lots to point to when criticizing Liberals on the matter. Additionally, there is an argument to be made that getting the prime minister and cabinet to support a resolution that effectively calls for an arms embargo, supports UNRWA, sanctions settlers, etc. outweighs that.

Is it sufficient? Not even close. Even before Israel unleashed its genocide in Gaza, the NDP should have been making much stronger demands of the government. Here are six other points, which largely uphold Canadian and international law, that should have been part of the NDP resolution.

  1. Cancel the Canada Israel free-trade agreement or at minimum restrict products from settlements the UN considers “war crimes”.
  2. The justice minister should state publicly that any Canadians fighting in Gaza will be investigated for war crimes and that inducing Canadians to join the Israeli military violates the Foreign Enlistment Act.
  3. Eliminate the position of Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism and rescind adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism, which are designed to protect Israel from criticism.
  4. End Canada’s criminalization of Palestinian political life. Over 10 percent of Canada’s terrorist list is made up of organizations headquartered in a long-occupied land representing one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population.
  5. Direct the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to investigate registered charities that may be contravening existing CRA regulations by supporting the Israeli military, racist organizations and West Bank settlements.
  6. Revaluate whether all taxpayers should subsidize donations to a genocidal apartheid state. Since October 7 maybe a quarter billion dollars has been raised by registered Canadian charities for projects in Israel. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967, somewhere around $6 billion in donations to Israel have been subsidized by taxpayers, which amounts to $2 billion in public support.

Any party serious about ending Canadian complicity in Israeli violence and dispossession would advocate for these measures. But the NDP is so far ensconced in an official Canadian political culture that is deeply imperialistic and Zionistic.

As enraging as Jagmeet Singh’s anti Palestinian positions are — such as last month’s smear against a Palestine demonstration or repeatedly refusing to mention Palestinians in a 2021 interview — his predecessor as NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, once said “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances”. Seen through that lens, Singh boasting online about getting tough on Israel is progress.

This step forward was because hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, heckled politicians, emailed officials, occupied offices, etc. in recent months. The lesson? We must increase the pressure against a Canadian establishment enabling Israel’s mass slaughter and starvation Gaza.

 – Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website:

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