Arms shipments to Israel halted but Liberals firm in opposition to Palestinian statehood

NDP motion for ceasefire, arms embargo passes in weaker, watered down form  

By Dave McKee  

On March 18, Members of Parliament had their first opportunity to vote on Canada’s response to Israel’s genocidal siege of Gaza, in the form of an NDP motion calling for a ceasefire, arms embargo with Israel and official recognition of the State of Palestine.

While the motion passed, it was only after a series of Liberal amendments which severely watered down the content and, in some areas, even the intent. The result is certainly a step forward, but it is a much smaller one than was needed and hoped for. It also exposes the Liberals’ prioritization of economic interests over human rights.

On the positive side, the vote means that Parliament has agreed to stop arms exports to Israel. The NDP’s original wording demanded a two-way suspension of “all trade in military goods and technology with Israel.”  However, the Liberals amended this to a one-way freeze which only targets exports – Canada remains free to import arms and military technology from Israel, which is a considerable source of funding for the siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestinian territories in general.

The motion calls for renewed funding for UNRWA, which is the main source of humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. However, the Liberal amendments include calls for the “implementation of necessary long-term governance reforms and accountability measures” at the organization. This is a reference Israel’s wildly exaggerated and unproven allegations that UNRWA was involved in the October 7 attack by Hamas, and they essentially offer the Canadian government an “op-out” clause to walk back on the motion’s commitment of renewed funding.

Similarly, while the NDP motion called for Canada to impose “sanctions on Israeli officials who incite genocide,” the Liberals insisted on limiting sanctions only to “extremist settlers.”  So, the Canadian government will continue to turn its eye from Israeli politicians, media, and military and business leaders whose hateful anti-Palestinian policies and statements have laid the groundwork for – and are facilitating – the current genocide. Furthermore, the Canadian government has already promised to sanction “extremist” settlers but has failed to take any action to date.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the debate on the motion was the section dealing with recognition of Palestine. The NDP wording called for Canada to “officially recognize the State of Palestine,” a move that would have brought Canada into alignment with the vast majority of the countries in the world. The Liberals insisted on changing the language to a commitment to “work with international partners to pursue the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace […] as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Of the 193 countries at the United Nations, 139 have recognized the State of Palestine. In one of the most illuminating moments of the debate in parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly noted that no G-7 country has recognized Palestine and that for Canada to do so would put this country “out of step with the rest of the G-7.” Clearly, for the Liberals and their backers, economic interests and trade concerns trump human rights and national self-determination.

Even though the motion was severely diluted by Liberal amendments, Palestine solidarity activists are viewing the vote as a step forward. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) said “the win in terms of an indefinite embargo on arms exports to Israel is significant” and called it “a starting point we can build on.” The group noted that the motion passed by a significant 204-117 majority with the NDP, Bloc Québécois, Greens and almost the entire Liberal caucus voting in favour.

Across Canada, anti-war and Palestine solidarity groups had mobilized people to contact their Members of Parliament ahead of March 18 and press them to vote in favour of the motion. Now, the challenge will be to maintain pressure on the government to ensure that it follows through with the motion and takes action against the genocide in Gaza.

Support socialist media!

If you found this article useful, please consider donating to People’s Voice or purchasing a subscription so that you get every issue of Canada’s leading socialist publication delivered to your door or inbox!

For over 100 years, we have been 100% reader-supported, with no corporate or government funding.

Sign up for regular updates from People's Voice!

You will receive email notifications with our latest headlines.