February 21, 2016
The Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minster Trudeau,
Re: Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation (1)
I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee to urge your government to oppose the Conservative motion “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad”. At the very least, this motion should be given a free vote as it is not a confidence motion and is a motion of deep moral concern.
Support for this motion betrays your government’s commitment to seek balance for Canadian policy in the Middle East and supports the “through fire and water, Canada will stand with [Israel]” one-sided policy of the previous Conservative government.
It is ironic that you are requesting Canadian citizens to engage in debate on government policy while at the same time condemning their right to debate BDS, and criticize Israel. You do not condemn the right of Canadians to criticise their own government’s policy or that of any other government except Israel. Why this exception?
While the motion appears to be only condemnatory, its existence permits its future use as a sledgehammer to intimidate all individuals and organizations seeking to oppose the illegal occupation. The inevitable outcome will be to strengthen the resolve of Palestinian supporters to be heard on this important free speech debate both on university campuses and in the public domain. This motion is not symbolic. Previous Conservative Party actions, including the adoption of a discredited definition of anti-semitism, are constantly being used against individuals and organizations to suppress open debate about Palestine/Israel. BDS is one tactic that is used in support of Palestine and to open debate. It cannot be separated from the larger debate.
The Vancouver-based Seriously Free Speech Committee (http://seriouslyfreespeech.ca/) was founded in 2008 to defend activists who were bring sued by CanWest for producing a parody of the Vancouver Sun’s one-sided coverage of Palestine and Israel. We have subsequently broadened our activity to defend individuals and organizations that are being attacked because of their criticism of Israel and their defense of Palestinian human rights.
As a matter of justice and in defense of our Charter of Rights, the Seriously Free Speech Committee urges you to change your position on this motion and to re-assert your commitment to re-balance Canada’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee
The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Leader, Conservative Party
The Honourable Tom Mulcair, Leader, New Democratic Party
The Honourable Rheal Fortin, Leader, Bloc Quebecois
Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party
The Honourable Stephane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs