Canada fails humanity with abstention on UN vote: CJPME

Montreal, October 28, 2023Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) condemns Canada’s abstention on a UN General Assembly emergency resolution late Friday, which called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” in Gaza. Many considered the resolution to be the last opportunity to prevent the bloody and devastating ground assault that was subsequently launched on Gaza by Israel. The resolution was sponsored by Jordan and passed with 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions. In addition to calling for a truce, it also called for all parties to respect international humanitarian law and allow the “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” provision of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The resolution also called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all civilians held captive. As the UN debate was underway, Israel imposed a total communications blackout on Gaza and launched a ground assault, escalating its bloody and devastating attacks on Gaza in complete darkness.

“Canada failed humanity with this vote,” asserts Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME. “Instead of supporting the one thing that might have made a difference for two million civilians in Gaza, Canada decided to play cynical political games,” says Woodley. Canada abstained on the vote after its attempts to pass an amendment failed. The amendment would have included language blaming Hamas as the instigator of the violence. CJPME notes that the resolution as adopted already contained language condemning violence against civilians and calling for the release of hostages. Pakistan’s ambassador berated Canada for its attempted amendment, pointing out that the resolution was intentionally apolitical and humanitarian, while Canada’s amendment would have made it extremely one-sided.

During the debate at the UN General Assembly, Israel took advantage of the moment to escalate its attacks on Gaza by launching a ground invasion. Simultaneously, Israel reportedly struck the main telecommunications tower and imposed a complete information blackout, cutting off all remaining access to internet and cell coverage. This has made it impossible for Gaza residents to contact their families or call for an ambulance. United Nations agencies and humanitarian NGOs have lost all contact with staff on the ground. It is not clear what the final human toll will be. Since October 7, at least 7,814 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 3,195 children.

“Canada’s decision to ‘do nothing’ in the face of Israel’s war crimes is now final and official,” protested Woodley. “Our country is officially complacent and complicit with this terrible humanitarian catastrophe, which UN experts and scholars warn may amount to genocide.” For weeks, international civil society has pushed hard for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid. Israel has been condemned by humanitarian organizations and legal experts for 1) its failure to discriminate between civilians and combatants, and 2) its failure to allow humanitarian aid – including food, water, fuel, and medical supplies – to reach civilians. Canada’s proposed amendment at the UN seemed intended to deflect attention from Israel’s legal violations, and to justify Israel’s lethal violence as mere self-defence.