What’s behind the Trudeau government’s new phrasing that Canada is “a friend of Israel” and “a friend of the Palestinian people”?

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In diplomacy, words matter. After saying for years that Canada was an “ally” of Israel, that terminology was quietly dropped last month. We now say Canada is a “friend of Israel, and a friend to the Palestinian people”. That sounds balanced. CTIP’s research department has discovered some of the ways Canada puts that apparently “balanced” statement into practice. Read more…

At a recent meeting with the Toronto Jewish community, Deborah Lyons, Canada’s Ambassador to Israel explained that she had direct instructions from Prime Minister Trudeau to actively promote Israel. Her surprising – and frank – speech was captured in a remarkable series of videos by Dimitri Lascaris of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME.)

Ambassador Lyons told the crowd that Justin Trudeau has directed her to “expand, broaden and deepen” the Canada-Israel relationship and to make it “stronger, stronger and stronger.”

There was no mention of any effort to improve relations with Palestinians, however.

Based on a review of reliable news reports and official government of Canada documents, CTIP’s research department has compiled a preliminary list of 27 activities/positions of the Trudeau government which are aimed to support Israel and actively undermine Palestinian aspirations. A quick scan of the list gives an insight into what Canada’s new official formulation “friend of Israel, and friend to the Palestinian people” means in practice.

  1. UN General Assembly (UNGA): Since coming to power, the Trudeau government has voted to defend Israel against almost all resolutions that criticize it. It is one of only a handful of countries that are seen as faithful Israel supporters.
  2. UNGA Economic Committee – Canada worked to oppose references to “foreign occupation” in any resolution presented to the committee which Canada calls an  attempt to single out Israel.
  3. UNGA Legal Committee – Canada advocated for Israel to be chair of the UN Legal committee.
  4. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Canada opposed Palestinian accession.
  5. An active defender of Zionism: In a statement marking Israel’s Independence Day, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau committed Canada to defending Zionism, that is the idea of a Jewish State in which Jews have rights denied to others.
  6. UN Environmental Assembly: Canada opposed a Field Based Environmental Assessment of the Effects of the 2012 and 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza.
  7. UNESCO: Canada opposed – and condemned – resolutions adopted by UNESCO to protect Palestinian cultural sites in East Jerusalem threatened by Israeli actions.
  8. UN Human Rights Council – Canada opposes any criticisms of Israel. It also joined Israel in severely criticizing the appointment of UWO law professor S. Michael Lynk as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
  9. Human Rights Council Database: Canada opposed a proposal that UN collect information on companies operating in the West Bank. This collection would be a step toward eventual moves to ban their export.
  10. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Canada worked with others to eliminate ‘Palestine” as a state party.
  11. International Criminal Court: Under Prime Minister Harper, Canada opposed Palestinian participation in the ICC. Today, Canada is still spearheading efforts to oppose Palestinian membership. The USA and Israel leave the leadership on this file to Canada since they fear joining the ICC could expose them to prosecution.
  12. INTERPOL: Canada opposed the Palestinian application for INTERPOL membership. (Notwithstanding Canadian, Israeli and US opposition, Palestine was accepted as a full member.)
  13. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (CPUOS) Canada actively supported Israeli membership, and nominated Israel as a member.
  14. Francophonie – Canada opposed inclusion of reference to illegal Israeli settlements in the declaration of the 16th Francophone summit.
  15. World Health Assembly – Canada voted against a resolution condemning health conditions in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
  16. Global Counter Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) – Canada opposed any reference to “foreign occupation”.
  17. Convention on the Status of Women – Canada co-sponsored an Israeli resolution on sexual harassment in the workplace but did not approve a Palestinian resolution on the status of Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories.
  18. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) –  Prime Minister Trudeau has repeatedly stated his opposition to BDS, as has the Canadian parliament, which adopted a motion condemning the BDS movement.
  19. Representing Israel abroad – Canadian Embassies in Cuba and Venezuela act as Israel’s consular representative or “Protecting power”.


    Canada has agreed to help Israel by absorbing 1900 Eritreans who were seeking asylum in Israel. Israel is unfriendly to immigrants or refugees who are not Jewish.

  20. Asylum/immigration: Canada granted refugee status to 1900 Eritreans who first sought refuge in Israel. Israel does not want to admit non Jewish refugees.
  21. Canada Israel Industrial Research Development Foundation – Canada provides $1 million to fund joint R&D projects with Israel.
  22. International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) – Canada is an active member of this body. Canada works with Israel to have IHRA definition of anti-Semitism – which equates opposition to Israel as anti-semitism – adopted in other international fora.
  23. Global Forum on Anti-Semitism: A group of Canadian parliamentarians, including both Liberals and Conservatives, organized together with US and Israeli counterparts, an international conference mainly aimed at conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
  24. Canada encourages tourism to Israel: The Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv actively promotes Canadian tourism to Israel.
  25. Canada actively discourages tourism to West Bank and Gaza: The website of Global Affairs Canada has actively discouraged all ‘non essential’ travel to the West Bank and Gaza for several years. This does severe damage to the Palestinian tourism industry despite the fact that there is no record of any Canadian tourist being injured through protests for at least 10 years in the West Bank.
  26. Israeli ministry of foreign affairs (MASHAV): Canada works closely with MASHAV on activities in South Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Rwanda and Ghana to defend common interests
  27. Golan Heights: Canada assists Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights by facilitating the flow of Canadian philanthropy to Syrians living in Israeli occupied areas.


At first glance, Canada’s new formulation “friend of Israel and friend to the Palestinian people” would appear to be almost balanced. However, on closer examination of our actions, it would appear that friendship with the State of Israel is a worth a lot more than mere friendship with Palestinian people“.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We invite brief comments (under 100 words) from readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at membership.ctip@gmail.com.


  1. That litany of Canada’s relationship with Israel vs. its treatment of Palestinian issues isn’t just embarrassing, it’s cringe-worthy shameful! And we want a seat on the Security Council? Sure hope the rest of the world is keeping score.

  2. I assume that the above Trudeau government’s new phrasing of being “ a friend of Israel” and “ a friend of the Palestinian people” is more a diplomatic statement in spirit. The current Canadian political positions regarding the illegal settlements on the Palestinian lands , shooting at Gazan peaceful demonstrators among others does not reflect the spirit of the new phrasing above but rather exceeds that to the level of alliance with Israel . I expected Trudeau to adopt more humane attitude towards the Palestinian issue.
    Sent from my iPhone

    1. In this case friends means sit back and support a racist dictatorship propped up my US intervention that openly murders unarmed civilians on a regular basis. so freinds is like friendly fire, because it isn’t.

  3. If a diplomatic balancing act between Israel and Palestine brought about by Peter’s intervention, the dropping of the word “ally” as a description of Canada’s relationship with Israel is very positive. It also reflects the reality that Canada is not a military security ally of Israel with any mutual defense obiigations. The Seretary General of Nato has recently confirmed that as a partner and not a member of Nato, Israel does not have acccess to and cannot directly benefit from the mutual security provisions of article 5 and therefore Nato support for Israel in any war with Iran would not happen. While Israel is not seeking Nato membership which would probably be resisted more than supported, and is prideful of having no formal military alliance with any state, Israel nonetheless has a mission there after Turkey dropped its opposition There are many oter partner countries with Nato including Arab Meditreranean states like Egypt or Lebanon so there are various opporunities for. collective cooperation. Maybe Nato could play a role in mediating between israel and Neditteranean neighbours like Syria, Lebanon and even Gaza the medpart of Palestine. That would be a role.for NATO in enforcing Middle East security.

  4. Blind and uncritical support offered by the present government to Israel is something not new. This history of hypocrisy by Canadian politicians runs deep. No doubts, Canadians are more sympathetic when it comes to Palestinians, its the Canadian politicians that are pressured by the Israeli lobbies to ignore the occupation and murder of the Palestinians.
    Our leaders are silent on Israel’s war crimes, They are silent on the regular and racist practices within Israel. If and when they do acknowledge human suffering by Palestinians they either fail to mention who causes it or blame Palestinians themselves. They disregard the occupation and blockade, and the day-to-day suffering they impose. It is the occupation and killings that are at the root of the problem which Canadian politicians most importantly disrespect and ignore.
    I find the unconditional Canadian support to Israel is a form of Islamophobia and should not be allowed by anyone.

    1. Hey Muazzam, while many Canadians dont like a lot of Israels actions, they AGREE with the idea that Jews need their own state. But once you agree to that, then it follows that that state has the right to defend itself. And that is the key idea in Zionism.

      1. Peter, Jews need their own state, that’s fine but not to occupy or steal other peoples land. The key idea of Zionism is not only that but also to kill and murder people. Their agenda is to exterminate the local people, Muslims and all Arabs that live there. They can have a state in other parts of the world, may in the US or Europe for that matter as they are the most supportive and sympathetic to their cause, but not in Palestine. You defend yourself only when you have a legitimacy in people eyes, Israel don’t and therefore Zionism becomes terrorism.

      2. Hey Muazzam, why do you think Jews need their own state? There are hundreds of peoples/nations/ethnic groups in the world that don’t have their “own” state.
        Algonquins, Basques, Kurds and Tibetans to start with. Are Jews special in some way?
        The idea of a “nation state” in which one ethnic group not only is numerically dominant, but also controls the state apparatus and enforces its own superiority, (like in Israel, or Saudi Arabia) belongs to the last century, don’t you think?
        The modern idea is of a tolerant, democratic state in which all are equal and minorities are protected. That is the “idea” of course, and lots of states, including Canada still have some work to do to make sure it is a reality.

      3. Muazzam,

        Two questions:
        1) You say that Jews need their own state. Why?
        2) You say that they can have it “in other parts of the world”. Whose land would you give them?

      4. Peter, One has no right to defend one’s country unless one allows that same right to all of its neighbours. Further, if you try to defend your country by attacking others, it backfires and starts a vicious cycle of violent acts that never end.
        Years ago a Swiss friend explained to me the measures taken by the Swiss to defend themselves without threatening their neighbours.
        Israel needs to learn from them.

  5. Thanks Peter , This is excellent work . Have the Greens and the NDP seen it ? Do they have comments?

  6. The phrase “a friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinian people” tells me, Trudeau has hitched his wagon to the government of Israel , thus the all inclusive “friend of Israel”, includes the great unwashed, the military snipers and those in the Netanyahu inner circle, while he has clearly indicated via the “friend of Palestinian people” a non-inclusive relationship that rejects the very people Palestinians elect to be their leaders, be that Hamas or the PLO.

    In effect, Trudeau’s redefined views point to a two tier friendship that seems to leave extremely little room for dialogue between Canada and the people who speak for Palestinians.

    In other words Apartheid diplomacy. I take it Ms Lyons hasn’t much reason to spend much time applying for permission from her Israeli handlers to enter into the Palestinian security zone.

  7. The strength of character- or lack of it- of a politician can be gauged by their ability to not be cowed, bullied, intimidated, bribed with money and/or power, or blackmailed by the immeasurably powerful israeli lobby. We can only speculate as to which of these categories Trudeau falls into. But we must assume that his name may be the reason why someone so cowardly has reached where his is . ” If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”, Bishop Tutu.

    1. Hey Heavenly777protector, You seem to be of the opinion that the Trudeau government makes decisions on the basis of what other countries think/want. I think a simpler explanation is that Trudeau’s formulation sounds fair to most Canadians. Do you disagree? Our challenge is to help Canadians better understand the history and the reality of the Israel/Palestine conflict. If we are successful there, I am sure Mr. Trudeau would modify his stance.

  8. Peter’s list of Canadian biased actions in favour of Israel in international organizations is long and striking and some examples fly in the face of official Canadian policy on the Israel Palestine conflict. Some patterns change over time like the more biased voting pattern on UN resolutions and failure to hold Israel accountable as the occupying power and are increasingly stymied by the invalid arguments that there are too many UN resolutions on Israel Palestine as if the UN cannot decide for itself how it wants to act on it… It will be crucial to see how Canada votes on the UNGA resolution on Gaza after the USA vetoed the UNSC version.)
    If Canada really wants to give voice to its policies it would be advocating a UNSC mandated two state solution of Israel and Palestine with their capitals in West and East Jerusalem respectively. Canada would also recognize the State of Palestine and advocate for its membership in organizations like the ICC and NPT where it could compete with Israel on equal terms on policies . This would be the true test of helping two friends, Israel and Palestine, to solve problems constructively and end the conflict..

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