This weekend, John Baird, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs will be arriving in Israel. In light of this visit, I wanted to reflect on Canada’s relationship with Israel. Since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister in 2006, Canada has shifted from being a critical uninvolved “friend” to being the best friend Israel could have. Although this change started with the election of Stephen Harper and the ousting of the Liberal Party of Canada after a twelve-year period of rule, the support Israel has in Canada is non-partisan.
One of the reasons why Canada and Israel’s friendship is so special is due to the uniqueness of their relationship. Unlike many other countries that are supposed to be Israel’s closest friends and allies, Canada and its politicians gain nothing out of their support for Israel. The Canadian government does not support Israel to gain votes, to receive intelligence sharing, or to receive international acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.
At every opportunity to speak, Canada has spoken out in favour of Israel. At every opportunity to act, Canada has acted in favour of Israel. At every opportunity to vote, Canada has voted with Israel. I cannot point to any concrete benefits this support has brought Israel, but I can however point to concrete consequences it has brought Canada.
In 2010, Canada failed to receive a spot on the United Nations Security Council for one reason, supporting Israel. Prime Minister Harper stated it best when he said “And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker. “There are, after all, a lot more votes—a lot more—in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost.”
Jews make up less than 1% of Canada’s population and for the most part, they support parties other than the Conservatives. There are close to two times as many Muslims in Canada than there are Jews, with a population that is rapidly increasing. The maximum any Canadian can donate to a political party is $1100 dollars, so there is minimal Jewish money or influence affecting the government. Although the leaders of the 2nd (NDP) and 3rd (Liberal) biggest political parties in Canada fathering Jewish children might have something to do with it, the NDP (formerly hostile to Israel) and the Liberal party (formerly critical of Israel) have joined Harper in their strong support for the Jewish state at every possible opportunity.
Although I will list some examples of Canada’s actions, nothing I write can express Canada’s support for Israel better than hearing Prime Minister Harper say that he will defend Israel at all costs, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney say “Am Yisrael Chai. May Israel live and prosper. God bless Israel” or reading John Baird’s Op Ed of why he loves Israel.
Although there are joint actions done by the two nations, such as Canada and Israel vocalizing a defence agreement where Canada’s Defence Minister declared that a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada, or Canada and Israel partnering in their aid and development financing, most of Canada’s support for Israel can be seen through diplomacy and rhetoric.
Canada has listed Iran as a state sponsor of terror and ended diplomatic relations with the country. The Canadian government has cut all funding to groups that engage in or support any type of boycott of Israel. It voted against Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly. Canada’s support of Israel was so strong, John Baird was invited to speak at the AIPAC conference to serve as an example for the United States.
In addition to being only one of 14 countries to vote against Palestine’s admission into UNESCO, Canada stopped funding the organization entirely as a result of the politicization of the group. Canada asked the PLO envoy to Canada to leave after tweeting an anti-Semitic video. Baird has threatened to not renew Canada’s $300 million dollars of aid to the Palestinian authority in addition to further consequences if they engage in unilateral actions such as attempting to go to the ICC. In light of a European report stating that members of Hamas were acting as administrators for UNRWA, Canada cut its funding for the project.
Whether its through things like being the first to walk out of the United Nations during Ahmadinejad’s speeches, boycotting the racist Durban conferences, or denouncing terrorism, Canada is always there to clearly express their support for Israel. As Israel’s relationship with many other “allies” wanes, it is important for Israel and Israelis to understand their bond with Canada.