It’s no secret Canada and Israel have long enjoyed an exceptional and mutually beneficial relationship. Built on a foundation of shared democratic values, both countries have an interest in working together to better the lives of their respective citizens.
This is especially the case in light of emerging and alarming challenges that know no borders, such as cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, radicalization, and other threats to global prosperity and security. In the search for solutions, Canada-Israel ties have burgeoned in recent years.
The latest example is a working visit to Israel this week by Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale. In the interest of expanding cooperation and sharing knowledge, Minister Goodale is meeting with his Israeli counterpart (Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan) and other experts to share knowledge on topics close to home for Canadians – like post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders, emergency management, cyber-security and policies to prevent terrorism.
Yesterday, Minister Goodale took the opportunity to announce an important contribution to regional peace. Through Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program, Canada is contributing to Israel’s Peres Peace Center, renowned for its cutting-edge work in peace-building and reconciliation. These funds will be focused on using new media to train young Palestinian, Israeli, Middle Eastern and North African leaders to work as grassroots peace advocates online and in their communities.
This visit is emblematic of how the Canada-Israel relationship has become a strategic priority for successive Canadian governments. Israel is increasingly seen in Canada – including by leaders in government, business, and academia – as a vital source of innovation, technology, and creative public policy solutions. Similarly, when Israel discovered massive natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean, to whom did they turn for advice? Canada, of course – with whom Israel signed an energy cooperation agreement in 2012.
This backdrop of complementary strengths helps explain why the two countries signed a wide-ranging Strategic Partnership MOU in 2014 on everything from science and culture to trade and defense. That landmark agreement was signed by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and, in a testament to the non-partisan nature of the Canada-Israel partnership, has been upheld by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
This speaks to the foundation of mutual respect and understanding upon which these practical, sector-specific Canada-Israel links have been built. In fact, we Canadians have a long history of applauding Israel’s values and achievements, and in turn defending the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (1957-63), voiced his esteem for Israel when he said: “Small states everywhere, poor in resources but rich in spirit, can learn much from the Jewish people who, undaunted, have brought into being a state politically strong, socially helpful to the needy, and economically ever stronger.”
His contemporary, Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (1963-1968) declared: “I never had a doubt that this problem is unsolvable without recognizing a Jewish state in the land of Israel. For me it was always the centre of the issue. A Jewish state in the land of Israel, a national home, is something that I felt it was a sine qua non for every [peace] arrangement.”
In the 21st Century, Canada has had a Conservative Prime Minister – Stephen Harper – who openly expressed his unequivocal support for Israel during conflicts, his condemnation of BDS, and his opposition to the perennial series of anti-Israel votes at the UN.
We now have a Liberal Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau – who has repeatedly denounced BDS resolutions on Canadian campuses. His government has upheld Canada’s record of opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and denounced politicized UNESCO votes that single out Israel and seek to deny historical Jewish links to Jerusalem. Minister Goodale’s visit is the latest in a series of concrete actions that reinforce the ties between Canada and Israel.
The strong international relationships Canadians have come to expect their governments to build don’t just happen. Rooted in common values, they mature over decades and, most importantly, are strengthened by elected leaders on both sides of the aisle.
As Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland noted recently: “We are a strong ally and close friend of Israel, continuing a mutually beneficial partnership that has advanced the shared values and interests of our two democracies for almost 70 years—and, most remarkably, irrespective of which Canadian political party is in power.”
Both Diefenbaker and Pearson would feel at home in their parties a half-century later.