Jordan Cantwell (The Right Reverend), Moderator
United Church of Canada
Dear Rev. Cantwell
I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee to commend you on the courageous letter you sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposing 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”.
As you are undoubtedly aware, this motion follows an extended effort by the previous government to restrict criticism and debate of Israel by falsely equating it with anti-Semitism. Such efforts have included the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, hosting the 2nd Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism Conference in Ottawa, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel and passing Bills C-13 and C-51. Less well known in Canada are the recent international efforts in France, the United Kingdom and the United States to make criticism of Israel or advocacy of BDS illegal or subject to severe financial penalties for both individuals and organizations. This has led Glenn Greenwald to characterize “criminalizing activism against the Israeli occupation as the greatest threat to free speech in the West.” (https://theintercept.com/2016/02/16/greatest-threat-to-free-speech-in-the-west-criminalizing-activism-against-israeli-occupation/)
While the motion appears to be only condemnatory, its existence permits its use as a sledgehammer to intimidate all individuals and organizations which seek to oppose the illegal occupation. The inevitable outcome will be to strengthen the resolve of Palestinian supporters to be heard on this important debate.
The Vancouver-based Seriously Free Speech Committee (http://seriouslyfreespeech.ca/) was founded in 2008 to defend activists who were being 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 who are being attacked because of their criticism of Israel and their defense of Palestinian human rights.
As you will undoubtedly be receiving many communications criticizing your statement, I would once again like to thank you for your strong message of support for free speech and your unflinching support for the people of Palestine.
on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee