Montreal MP Anthony Housefather ‘reflects’ on future with Liberals

“I think it’s the first time in my parliamentary career that I have had a reflection like this,” Housefather says after a heavily modified motion on Palestinian statehood was passed.

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OTTAWA – Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says he is “reflecting” on his future in the Liberal Party after a heavily amended NDP motion on Palestinian statehood passed the House of Commons on Monday.

“I think this is the first time in my parliamentary career that I have had a reflection like this,” said a somber father upon arriving at Parliament on Tuesday.

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Housefather was among three Liberals who voted against the final motion, which passed Monday night by a vote of 204 to 117 after lengthy negotiations between the Liberals and the NDP.

The original version, introduced by NDP MP Heather McPherson, called for Canada to “officially recognize the State of Palestine.” The amended motion adjusted that to recognize Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution within a Middle East peace process.

It also added language calling on Hamas to lay down its weapons, identifying it as a Canadian-listed terrorist organization and replacing text calling on Ottawa to “suspend all” trade in military goods and technology with Israel with a paragraph calling for Canada to stop approving the transfer of “arms exports” to Israel.

The final version was very close to Canada’s existing Middle East policy.

Housefather, along with most major Canadian Jewish organizations, condemned the original motion as one-sided and said it rewarded Hamas for its Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel.

He said the amended version was better, but he still could not support it.

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Housefather added that he doesn’t think his colleagues fully appreciate what Jews around the world are facing amid a “strong wave of anti-Semitism,” nor do they realize that Israel, the only Jewish state, is the last refuge for Jews. “when they are exiled or expelled from the countries.”

“I didn’t feel that some Members of Parliament, or many Members of Parliament, understood the existential threat that Israel faces and the fears of Canadian Jews as a result of what is happening domestically and what is happening abroad,” he said.

The Liberals could have chosen to vote against the NDP’s flawed motion, he said, but “we didn’t.”

“And then we give a standing ovation to the NDP member who sponsored the original motion, and now I have to reflect,” he said.

Housefather added that he will have more to say soon.

The other two Liberals who voted against the motion were former public safety minister Marco Mendicino and Manitoba MP Ben Carr.

Both said on Tuesday that they do not intend to leave the Liberal Party even though they could not support the motion.

Mendicino said he did not agree with making more than a dozen “substantive” amendments to a motion at the last minute without adequate time for reflection and debate.

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“Canada must play a constructive role in the Middle East, but our foreign policy should not be negotiated on the basis of an NDP motion,” he said.

The original NDP motion called for “unilateral recognition” of the State of Palestine “in the absence of a peace process, which would have been inconsistent with Canada’s well-established support for a two-state solution,” he said.

The original motion did call for Canada to work toward a two-state solution, but not alongside its demand that Ottawa recognize the State of Palestine. The final version of the motion united the two.

Last week, Carr said he would not support the motion because it contained many elements he could not support, including such unilateral recognition.

Carr said you cannot have peace as long as Hamas remains in charge of governing the Gaza Strip, as it has done since 2007.

He added that many of the amendments reflected his concerns, but that there was not enough time to think about them and decide whether to change his vote.

Liberal House leader Steven MacKinnon said the amendments came after lengthy negotiations on a “complex, sensitive and emotional” issue.

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He made no apology for the fact that they came forward so late in the process.

“It took as long as it took,” he said.

“I’m very proud that almost two-thirds of Canada’s Parliament was able to support something of that level of complexity, and I think Canadians should be very proud that their Parliament took a uniquely Canadian position yesterday.”

He said liberals are reaching out to Housefather.

“He is a colleague that I have enormous respect for and who has been an incredible spokesperson for his community, and we will continue to speak with Anthony,” MacKinnon said.

Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the Liberals need a voice like Housefather’s in the caucus.

“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,” Champagne said.

With files from Stephanie Taylor.

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