August 7, 2016: Green Party of Canada members vote to endorse BDS
On this day in 2016, Green Party of Canada members voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), which seeks to put economic pressure on Israel until it respects international law. With this vote, the Green Party became the first major Canadian political party to put BDS into its official platform. Following the vote, backlash from the party leadership led to the policy eventually being replaced with a “compromise” resolution, which did not mention BDS but nonetheless reaffirmed support for the need to put economic pressure on the Israeli government.
The BDS resolution adopted by the Green Party in August 2016 committed the party to support “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT.” The resolution also committed to standing in solidarity with BDS supporters by opposing “all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.”
Dimitri Lascaris, the Green Party then-Justice Critic and the sponsor of the resolution, explained the necessity of adopting BDS: “Unless those who profit from the occupation incur significant penalties for violating Palestinian rights, then the occupation will not end. Western governments have immunized Israel from the consequences of its offenses against Palestinians.”
Following the vote, Green Party leader Elizabeth May vocally opposed the resolution and even threatened to resign if the policy wasn’t reversed. A few months later at a special general meeting in November, the policy was replaced with a “compromise” resolution. The new policy removed the reference to BDS but continued to endorse the use “economic pressure” against Israel, including consumer boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. The new policy was ratified online with the support of over 90% of party members.