NDP Palestinian state motion passes after major Liberal tweaks

A federal New Democrats motion initially calling on Canada to recognize the “State of Palestine” passed amid widespread acrimony on Monday, after the Liberals drastically altered its wording so that the government would simply work toward that goal as part of a two-state solution. .

After appearing destined for failure when the ruling Liberals vowed on Monday not to let the opposition influence their foreign policy, Government House leader Steven MacKinnon surprised MPs on both sides of the aisle when he rose in the final minutes of the debate to present a proposal of almost 500 words. motion that reworded considerable parts of the NDP motion.

After generating considerable international attention and division among MPs during a nearly day-long debate, the NDP’s non-binding but symbolic motion ultimately passed by 204 to 117.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and almost all Liberal MPs voted in favour, along with MPs from the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Greens. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his party voted against the proposal.

While almost all elements of the motion were alteredArguably the biggest change came on the finish line.

That line originally called on the House to ask the government to “officially recognize the State of Palestine,” but was rewritten to read: “work with international partners to actively pursue the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including towards the establishment of the State of Palestine as part of a negotiated two-state solution.

“We have forced the government to move in a certain direction,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, speaking to reporters just before the vote, claiming victory as he faced questions about why his party did not draft the motion of different way to start, if the one on Monday. The result was what they intended.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Canada was sending a “strong message” to the world. When asked if the measures contained in the motion should now be considered the government’s official position, Joly said it is “clearly the intention of this government.”

“The definition of the two-state solution was really important, as of course we know that Canada, as a G7 country, is sending a message to other G7 countries,” Joly said.

Resentment over last minute changes

The last-minute move, backed by the NDP, sparked fury in the House, where Conservatives raised procedural concerns about tabling such substantive amendments relating to Canada’s foreign policy on such short notice that, when tabled, the proposal liberal apparently had not yet been approved. translated into French.

A few Liberal MPs, who balked at being given virtually no time to debate the elaborate amendments, shared these frustrations.

“This was presented after all debate had concluded. How can you have such a substantial amendment that no one has the opportunity to see or debate?” questioned Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who joined caucus mates Marco Mendicino and Ben Carr in voting against the motion.

While calling for Vice President Chris d’Entremont to declare the amendment out of order, House Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said “at a minimum” he should have postponed the vote until Tuesday to allow time to absorb the huge “back of a napkin alterations.

Citing an agreement reached weeks ago to call the vote Monday night, the president said his hands were tied.

He originally requested motion nine actions the federal government should take, including demanding an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages; suspend trade in all military goods with Israel while doing more to stop illegal arms trade to Hamas; and advocate for an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The motion also implored the Canadian government to lift the 1,000-person limit on temporary residence visas for Palestinians who wanted to flee Gaza; prohibit the arrival of extremist settlers from Canada; and maintain Canada’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace with its neighbors.

Each of these lines was altered in some way through the amendments, including the insertion of text regarding the laying down of Hamas’ weapons, humanitarian aid and resettlement offers from Canada, and condemnation of settler violence.

NDP denies playing politics

Opposition day motions are an opportunity for non-ruling parties to force votes on issues of their choice. Although they typically focus on hot-button political issues, they do not typically provoke this level of deliberation.

After months of calling for a ceasefire, the NDP took the position that recognizing Palestine as a state could help speed up a deeper diplomatic process.

During a lengthy speech outlining the center-left party’s position, hours before accepting the Liberal government’s drafting, NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said the time had come to “recognize Palestine.”

Insisting that the New Democrats did not intend to use this motion as a political tactic to “get us,” he called for the option of not doing more to help starving children who are “not Hamas politicians.”

Behind-the-scenes talks had taken place between the Liberals and their NDP confidence and supply agreement partners, leading to debate over the wording of the motion and possible amendments.

“We have seen the complete failure of the international community to stop the carnage unfolding in Gaza, and we are dismayed by the failure of Canada’s Liberal government to stand up for what is right,” McPherson said.

Speaking to reporters Monday night, McPherson doubled down, saying eight of the NDP’s nine calls to action were approved in some form. “Frankly, we wanted this to pass. It was never supposed to be a divisive issue… it was always about getting help for the people of Gaza,” he said. “This will move the government.”

Joly defends Canada’s position

The shift came after Joly outlined in his speech on the motion earlier in the day that the federal government was taking the position that its response to the conflict is balanced and would not be swayed by a flawed opposition proposal.

“We cannot change foreign policy based on an opposition motion,” Joly said. “Our position has been clear, it is a position that many G7 foreign ministers have been expressing around the world, and that is: we need a hostage deal, we have to make sure that we reach a humanitarian ceasefire, aid humanitarian must enter Gaza.”

Joly said Canada continues to take the position that a path to lasting peace can only be achieved through a “negotiated political solution.”

Last week, Joly visited the Middle East where he met with representatives, including the president of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli president, Isaac Herzog.

“These conversations are not always easy. We do not all share the same perspective, but we all share the goal of peace and stability in the region. Therefore, we must be pragmatic and find a way forward together,” he said.

The tensions surrounding the issue were exemplified in Monday’s debate, hours before its bitter end, when Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman told McPherson that she “should be ashamed of herself” for promoting a motion that does not hold Hamas “responsible for no way”.

Later, Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the Conservatives support the long-standing position of a two-state solution, “but this cannot be achieved by some kind of unilateral declaration in the House of Commons.”

Pressure from both sides

Before the vote, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Iddo Moed, spoke out against the initial version of the motion, stating that “unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state rewards Hamas – a government-listed terrorist organization.” of Canada – for his sadistic attack. “.

“Giving power to terrorists will only lead to more bloodshed and jeopardize any peaceful solution to the conflict,” the ambassador said in a statement.

Echoing this, Israel War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, who said he spoke with Trudeau on Monday, warned that “unilateral recognition” of Palestine would be “counterproductive to the mutual goal of long-term regional security and stability.” .

In a readout of the call from his office, he said the prime minister “shared concerns about Israel’s planned offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah,” and “also emphasized the need for continued Israeli support.” to facilitate the departure of Canadians and their families. of Gaza.”

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) advocated for MPs to vote “yes” on the NDP’s initial motion, citing a campaign in which thousands of Canadians emailed their MPs asking for their support, suggesting that many of the proposed measures are already ideas that ruling politicians have endorsed.

“Today’s vote is a historic test for all parliamentarians on what is perhaps the most important international issue of the day. Many Canadian voters will deeply remember where their parliamentarians stood in this vote when it comes to future election campaigns,” CJPME President Thomas Woodley said in a statement.

“Canadians have been asking whether Cabinet is on the side of genocide or justice. Today’s vote by government ministers will make that abundantly clear.”

The war began on October 7 when Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking another 240 hostage. Since then, amid continued retaliatory attacks by Israel, the death toll from the conflict has surpassed 30,000 in Gaza, there has been mass displacement and a widespread humanitarian crisis continues to worsen.

Recognizing Palestinian statehood is a step that no G7 member country has so far taken, although there have been signs that the United States and the United Kingdom are studying it.

On March 8, Canada became the first G7 nation to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), citing the “catastrophic” situation in Loop.

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