Ontario MPPs need to oppose today's Motion 36

CJPME Political Blog, December 1, 2016:

Re: The Need to OPPPOSE today’s Motion 36

Dear members of the Ontario Legislature,

I write to you today to urge you to vote AGAINST ballot item number 25, Motion Number 36, introduced by Ms. Martow, MPP Thornhill, to be debated today, December 1.  This motion seeks to smear and discredit a movement – the BDS movement – which is grounded in international law and the respect of the human rights of all peoples. 

wynne.pngMy organization, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East is comprised of 120,000 adherents across Canada, including 40,000 in Ontario.  We help Canadians promote justice, development and peace in the Middle East by promoting equal application of international law, and condemning all violence.

Because we support human rights and seek peace through non-violence, we actively support the BDS movement.

The BDS movement seeks to non-violently pressure the Israeli government – not individual Jews or Israelis – to fulfill its human rights obligations under international law.  When Israel’s human rights abuses end, so will the BDS movement.  Canada currently sanctions 21 different countries for human rights and civil rights abuses: the BDS movement is no different.

Like Bill 202 in May, the current “Motion 36” misrepresents and defames the BDS movement and its supporters.  The current Motion suggests that the BDS movement promotes “hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance” and that it promotes “differential treatment of Israel.”  This is false. 

To draw an analogy, such accusations would be similar to accusing a “child’s rights” movement of being hostile towards adults, or a “women’s rights” movement being intolerant of men.

The official statement for BDS can be found at http://bdsmovement.net/call, and is summarized as follows.

The first stated objective of the BDS movement is “Ending [Israel’s] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling [Israel’s] Wall.” [1]  This aligns fully with Canada’s Global Affairs position on the Israeli-Palestinian.[2] 

The second stated objective of the BDS movement is “Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.”[3]  Thus, BDS makes a commitment – like Canada’s Global Affairs Website – to address human rights and civil rights abuses.[4]

The third stated objective of the BDS movement is “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” [5]  In 1948, and still today, Canada supports the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes or receive compensation as per Resolution 194 at the UN.[6]

Both the Ontario Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) issued statements condemning Bill 202.  Sadly, Motion 36 ignores the BCCLA’s exhortation not to take steps that would “chill rights to public participation, sanction political witch hunts” and censure individuals for their political views.[7] 

Please also note that Amnesty International slammed a similar anti-BDS motion that passed in Federal Parliament February 2016.  Amnesty condemned that motion on the basis of free speech, saying that the motion could “undermine the right of individuals to exercise their free expression right to promote the BDS movement.” [8]

Beyond the question of free expression, anti-BDS bills should be rejected because BDS is good policy: for international peace, and consequently for the Canadian government and civil society. 

Even if you are not convinced of the human rights value of the BDS movements, I would ask you to vote AGAINST Motion 36 out of support for Canadians’ Charter right to free expression. 

Should you have any questions about the Middle East, BDS, or Motion 36, please do not hesitate to call me at 438-380-5410.


Thomas Woodley

[1] “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS,” Palestinian BDS National Committee,  http://bdsmovement.net/call accessed Feb. 23, 2016

[2] “Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Global Affairs Canada Website, Government of Canada,  http://www.international.gc.ca/name-anmo/peace_process-processus_paix/canadian_policy-politique_canadienne.aspx?lang=eng accessed Feb. 23, 2016

[3] Ibid., “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS”

[4] “Human Rights,” Global Affairs Canada Website, Government of Canada,  http://www.international.gc.ca/rights-droits/index.aspx?lang=eng accessed Feb. 23, 2016

[5] Ibid., “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS”

[6] Ibid., “Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”

[7] “The BCCLA responds to Ontario’s Anti-BDS Participation Bill,” BC Civil Liberties Association, May 19, 2016,  https://bccla.org/news/2016/05/the-bccla-responds-to-ontarios-anti-bds-participation-bill/ accessed May 22, 2016

[8] Neve, Alex and Vaugrante, Beatrice “Freedom of Speech and Criticism of Israel’s Human Rights Record,” Amnesty International Canada, Friday, May 6, 2016, http://www.amnesty.ca/blog/freedom-speech-and-criticism-israel%E2%80%99s-human-rights-record accessed May 10, 2016