Author Archives: Seriously Free Speech Committee

Globe and Mail: Parliament votes to reject Israel boycott campaign

The Globe and Mail, Feb. 23, 2016
By Patrick Martin

Parliament has voted by a wide margin to condemn the growing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign being waged against Israel for what is alleged to be the Jewish state’s failure to accord equal rights to Arabs in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The motion, introduced by the Opposition Conservative Party, called for the House to “reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel,” and the government to “condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

The governing Liberals mostly supported the motion, making the final tally 229 in favour of condemning the BDS movement with 51 opposed. The NDP voted against the measure, not because it likes the BDS movement, Leader Tom Mulcair said, but because it doesn’t like to see the stifling of free expression. Only the Bloc Québécois argued that the BDS campaign constitutes legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

Israel is increasingly concerned with the successes of the boycott and divestment efforts. In 2014, foreign direct investment in Israel dropped 46 per cent from the previous year, in part, a United Nations report said, because of BDS efforts. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: To the Moderator of the United Church of Canada

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”. Continue reading

SFSC Letter: Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West

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? Continue reading

United Church Moderator expresses “strong concern” to Trudeau re BDS motion

The Moderator of The United Church of Canada sent the following letter to The Hon. Justin Trudeau

re: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

The Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
In this season of discernment and reflection we call Lent, I bring you greetings from The United Church of Canada. It has come to my attention that the following motion is before the House of Commons:

“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”

On behalf of The United Church of Canada, I am writing to express strong concern about this motion. During your campaign, you expressed your vigilance to uphold and protect Canada’s fundamental commitment to democracy. We ask that your government defeat this motion and uphold the fundamental freedoms of “thought, belief, opinion, and expression” as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. Continue reading

CBC: Liberals denounce and agree with Tory motion condemning Israel boycotters

CBC.ca By Neil MacDonald

So, the Trudeau government intends to join with the Conservatives next week and condemn the United Church of Canada and the Quakers, along with every other organization and individual participating to any degree in a boycott of Israeli goods and services.

Blanket government condemnation is not a very sunny thing to do, and the Liberals, quivering with outrage, are making it clear they really don’t want to do it.

But they are going ahead because, apparently, they’re being bullied, the poor daisies.

It’s just not fair, the things you can be forced to do when you have a parliamentary majority.

There is no doubt, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion declared in the House of Commons Thursday, that most of the organizations and individuals supporting the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement are doing so in good faith, believing it will somehow force an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its control over Gaza, and maybe some sort of peace deal.

But BDS, said Dion, is not government policy. And “those people, of good faith, we will not convince them of their error by banging them on the head, by hitting them with condemnations of all types, by intimidation, or by invectives. We have to speak to them with respect.”

There is also, added the minister, the small matter of freedom of speech and debate. Continue reading

The intercept: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation
The Intercept By Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman

THE U.K. GOVERNMENT today announced that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.” Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israeli settlements will face “severe penalties.”

This may sound like an extreme infringement of free speech and political activism — and, of course, it is — but it is far from unusual in the West. The opposite is now true. There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding. Continue reading

SFSC: Valentino’s Ghost and Wanted 18 – Vancouver Film Premieres Feb 13

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SFSC Event: Stolen Land – First Nations, Palestinians at the Frontline of Resistance

Watch video of the event:

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Environmental Defence: Victory! Ontario citizens freed from the risk of being SLAPPed when speaking out to protect their communities

Ontario citizens will now be able to participate in public debates without fear of being slapped with a lawsuit.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) silence public debate and put a chill on free speech. Today the Protection of Public Participation Act passed third reading and will now become law in the Ontario legislature. The new law promises to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits without restricting legitimate legal recourse by anyone who is legitimately slandered or libelled. Continue reading

SFSC Event Sept 24: Big Brother is Watching – A discussion of Bills C51 & C24

Thursday September 24, 5:30pm-7pm
Rm 7000 SFU Downtown, 515 West Hastings St, Vancouver

Big Brother is Watching Continue reading