Liberal MP ‘reflecting’ on place in caucus after NDP Palestinian statehood motion debacle

The Liberal watering down late Monday night of an NDP motion on recognition of a Palestinian state sparked anger and disappointment among both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian advocacy groups.

And one Liberal MP said he felt “isolated” and is now “reflecting” on his place within the caucus.

A controversial federal New Democrats motion that initially called on Canada to recognize the “State of Palestine” was passed on Monday, but not until the Liberals drastically altered its wording at the last minute to have the government simply work toward that goal. . part of a two-state solution.

The non-binding but largely symbolic motion sponsored by NDP MP Heather McPherson also included considerably modified language on various aspects of the current war between Israel and Gaza.

This included calling for an immediate ceasefire, for Hamas to release all hostages, for further transfers of arms exports to Israel to cease, and for humanitarian aid and resettlement offers to be enhanced.

The NDP took the position that recognizing Palestine as a state could help speed up a deeper diplomatic process, and despite the sweeping changes, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said it has now “forced the government to move forward on a certain direction”.

After stating in the House of Commons that an opposition motion would not influence the federal government’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly told reporters after the vote, and after hours of meetings of cabinet, which “it is clearly the intention of this government to do We are confident that we follow what is written in this motion.”

Asked by the NDP to clarify whether that means Canada will stop sending weapons to Israel, Joly parliamentary secretary Rob Oliphant said the Liberal government will “continue not to sell weapons as we have promised.”

According to The Canadian Press, Canada had not approved any military export permits for goods headed to Israel since January 8, with the government citing an inability to confirm that human rights were being respected or that the requirements of the export regime would be met. .

“Yesterday for me was a day when I felt very proud to be a parliamentarian. In this House we came together, four of five parties, to find a workable solution, to find a Canadian position that Canadians could feel comfortable with,” Oliphant said. .

House dad reflecting on his role

Amid discontent over the last-minute rewrite, three Liberal MPs voted against the motion (Anthony Housefather, Marco Mendicino and Ben Carr) along with Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his group.

Housefather says the way the vote played out left him and his two dissident peers feeling “somewhat isolated.”

“It is the first time in my parliamentary career that I have had a reflection like this, where last night I really felt that a line had been crossed. When members of my party stood up, they cheered and gave a standing ovation to Heather McPherson and the NDP, I started reflecting on whether I belonged or not,” he said.

While Housefather said Liberal MPs are “trying to show me a lot of love right now,” he said it’s difficult to feel like his fellow MPs don’t understand his identity and his concerns about Israel.

“It was a very difficult moment for me, the vote last night, what happened. I’ll be very honest, I felt that the message I conveyed about how disturbing the original motion was clearly did not prevail.”

While agreeing that the amended version was better than the initial draft, Housefather called it “bad parliamentary form” for the government to table the amendments minutes before the end of the debate.

“Parliamentarians have the right to know and understand what they vote for in all cases,” he said.

Also speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Carr said that while he doesn’t feel the same isolation, he believes “it would have been more desirable for us to have had a negotiation on the amendments, a little bit earlier.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly speaks to reporters in the lobby of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, March 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

Defending the timing, Government House leader Steven MacKinnon said the two sides were still negotiating “a very complex and very broad set of agreements, resolutions and clauses involving a number of stakeholders, and it took the necessary time.” .

Carr said he is “confident there will be a lot of conversations in the caucus tomorrow.”

“He is a great Member of Parliament. I have enormous respect for him and the community he represents, and I think we all benefit from having people like Anthony among our group, so I certainly wish he would stay with us,” said the Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne.

When asked last night what her message was to disgruntled caucus colleagues and how the government intends to maintain unity within the caucus, Joly said she and her colleagues are “one big family” and that they “always work together.”

The groups express anger and disappointment.

As soon as the ruling Liberals tabled sweeping amendments to the NDP opposition motion, stakeholders came out to condemn, question and, in some cases, applaud the language approved by the majority of MPs.

“By adopting such a unilateral and irresponsible motion, the House has expressed an egregious degree of disregard for Israel’s right to defend itself,” B’nai Brith Canada director of government relations David Granovsky said in a statement.

“Canada must not stand in the way as Israel works to neutralize terrorists who impede the implementation of sustainable peace.”

Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel said the community he represents is “angry and deeply disappointed” in the Liberals for choosing to “effectively outsource Canadian foreign policy to anti-Israel radicals within the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.” “

“While the removal of the highly problematic clause calling for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state is an important outcome of the substantial mobilization of the pro-Israel community, the NDP’s failure to achieve its central objective is of little consolation. “, he claimed. saying.

NDP Member of Parliament Heather McPherson and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh hold a news conference in the lobby of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, March 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Sean Kilpatrick

Fogel added that by backing the motion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was demonstrating “a failure of moral leadership” and expressed concern about the knock-on effects in Canada, such as fueling anti-Semitic protests.

Speaking on Parliament Hill, National Council of Canadian Muslims executive director Stephen Brown said Canadians should be proud after Monday night’s vote.

“We witnessed how many members of Parliament affiliated with different parties voted in the House of Commons to pass a historic motion affirming Palestinian human rights and opposing the massacre of innocent civilians. This represents an important moral commitment to work with allies for peace and justice in the region,” Brown said.

“We recognize that no motion can be perfect and meet the concerns of all Canadians, but the other option was to do nothing.”

Before the vote, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) advocated for MPs to vote “yes” on the NDP’s initial motion, calling it a “historic test for all MPs.”

Reacting to the result, CJPME vice-president Michael Bueckert said the vote did not go “as far” as the advocacy group had hoped, saying the dilution of the motion weakened the importance of Parliament’s vote in a way that left to his organization “deeply disappointed.”

“A last-minute secret agreement between the Liberal government and the NDP leadership means the motion no longer contains several of the stricter provisions originally proposed,” Bueckert said.

“Although imperfect, this is a tangible victory on the path towards a bilateral arms embargo between Canada and Israel. The NDP should not rest on its laurels and continue to fight,” he said.

“The Trudeau government must immediately implement the democratic will of Parliament by adopting these demands and ignore the reaction of those who seek to vilify this motion.”

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