What to expect from Canada’s new foreign minister Marc Garneau on Israel/Palestine?

On January 15th, Prime Minister Trudeau named Marc Garneau to be our new minister of Foreign Affairs. What can we expect his policy to be on Israel/Palestine? Two things provide guidance: (1) the Prime Minister’s “Mandate letter’ to Garneau telling him what his priorities should be and (2) what Garneau has said in the past. Read more..

First – the mandate letter.

It is normal practice for the Prime Minister to send a “mandate letter” to his new ministers telling him what he expects them to do. It is useful, therefore for interested parties to scan the mandate letters of various ministers to get a hint about the government’s intentions.

“As Minister of Foreign Affairs, you will implement on a priority basis the following commitments, as set out in the Speech from the Throne 2020, wrote Trudeau in his January 15th letter to Garneau, outlining 6 priorities, the first of which was, to “Work with me, and in close collaboration with other ministers, to further strengthen our partnership with our closest ally, the United States.”

Trudeau explained to Garneau that these priorities were “supplementary’ to those in a December 2019 letter he had written to the previous foreign minister, Louis-Philippe Champagne. That letter had 9 priorities.

An attentive reader will note that nowhere in that total of 15 “priorities” does human rights for Palestinians appear. CTIP assumes that Mr. Garneau will attentively read those letters and draw the same conclusion as CTIP – that he is not to change anything with respect to Canada’s ongoing support for Israel.

Second, what does Garneau himself think?

It’s hard to tell what a minister thinks, but a good clue comes from what Garneau told Israeli officials when he was there as transport minister in January 2018. He appears to have been very pleased to boast to his Israeli counterparts of Canada’s support. Some of that support is very public (e.g. statements by Trudeau opposing BDS, or supporting Zionism, or our ongoing support for Israel at the UN General Assembly) but a good deal of it happens “behind the scenes”. Here are 24 quiet ways in which the minister said Canada supports Israel.

Then Transport Minister Marc Garneau admires an Israeli drone during his visit to Israel in 2018. (Source: Garneau’s twitter feed)
  1. UNGA Economic Committee – Canada works to oppose references to “foreign occupation” in any resolution presented to the committee which Canada calls an  attempt to single out Israel.
  2. UNGA Legal Committee – Canada advocates for Israel to be chair of the UN Legal committee.
  3. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Canada opposes Palestinian accession.
  4. UN Environmental Assembly: Canada opposes a Field Based Environmental Assessment of the Effects of the 2012 and 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza.
  5. UNESCO: Canada opposes – and condemns – resolutions adopted by UNESCO to protect Palestinian cultural sites in East Jerusalem threatened by Israeli actions.
  6. UN Human Rights Council – Canada opposes any criticisms of Israel. It also joined Israel in severely criticizing the appointment of Canadian law professor S. Michael Lynk as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
  7. Human Rights Council Database: Canada opposes 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.
  8. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Canada works with others to eliminate ‘Palestine” as a state party.
  9. International Criminal Court: Under Prime Minister Harper, Canada opposed Palestinian participation in the ICC. Today, Canada continues 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.
  10. INTERPOL: Canada opposes the Palestinian application for INTERPOL membership. (Notwithstanding Canadian, Israeli and US opposition, Palestine was accepted as a full member.)
  11. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (CPUOS) Canada actively supports Israeli membership, and nominated Israel as a member.
  12. Francophonie – Canada opposes inclusion of reference to illegal Israeli settlements in the declaration of the 16th Francophone summit.
  13. World Health Assembly – Canada voted against a resolution condemning health conditions in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
  14. Global Counter Terrorism Strategy (GCTS) – Canada opposes any reference to “foreign occupation”.
  15. 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.
  16. Representing Israel abroad – Canadian Embassies in Cuba and Venezuela act as Israel’s consular representative or “Protecting power”.
  17. Asylum/immigration: Canada granted refugee status to 1900 Eritreans who first sought refuge in Israel. Israel does not want to admit non Jewish refugees.
  18. Canada Israel Industrial Research Development Foundation – Canada provides $1 million to fund joint R&D projects with Israel.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Canada encourages tourism to Israel: The Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv actively promotes Canadian tourism to Israel.
  22. 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.
  23.  Canada works closely with MASHAV (Israeli ministry of foreign affairs) on activities in South Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Rwanda and Ghana to defend common interests
  24. 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.

So what will Garneau’s policy be?

All this does not mean that Canada will support Israel on every single issue. Sometimes we nod timidly in favour of Palestinian rights. Trudeau DID restore our funding to UNRWA, Canada DID vote for Palestinian self-determination at the UNGA in 2020 (while voting along with Israel against 13 other resolutions), and Trudeau DID speak up against Netanyahu’s plan to formally “annex” signifant portions of the West Bank. Good.

But based on his mandate letter from Trudeau, and what we know about what the new minister’s own predilections, we can expect Canada to continue to overwhelmingly support Israel and help protect it from international censure.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.


  1. When change in Canada’s policy towards either Israel or the US does come, it will not be announced in a document. It will sneak in through a side-door.

  2. isreal IS an APARTHEID state. how do we change the attitude of our governements policies. What can an odinary citizen do. we have always supported BDS,i ifeel very helpless when i read our governement policies.

    1. Hey Shahida, IMHO the government policies are actually very close to those of the NDP and even the Green Party.

      None of them will change much until there is a bigger percent of the Canadian public who agrees that Israel itself (not just the West Bank) runs a form of apartheid over all the territory it covers. If you have not already done so, read the Bt’selem report and try to get more of your friends to do so.

      Or, if you want a shorter version, check out my previous blog here: https://canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca/2021/01/17/was-ndp-mp-charlie-angus-right-to-refer-to-israel-as-an-apartheid-state/ It has the arguments summed up and also has links to the Btselem report.

  3. Absolutely no change for the better in relation with the Palestinians.No justice, no rights, not even pretending. Trudeau and his main policy makers showed their true colors long ago. We need to look at some posts, to realise it.
    Chrystia Freeland. Bob Rae. Irvin Cotler. and now Mark Garneau.etc….

  4. Some years back when Palestinian and Jewish Unity held its secondary boycott campaign against the sale of Israeli-made shoes in Montreal, Marc Garneau made it his business to come and buy some Israeli-made shoes while intimating that the boycott was ‘anti-Jewish.’ Freeland, Cotler, Rae, Garneau, Housefather, Levitt…IHRA. The Trudeau years!

    1. Those who, like Minister Garneau, think that boycotts of Israeli products are anti-Jewish are making the fundamental mistake of focussing on perpetrators rather than victims. If they would look at what was (and is) done to the Palestinians, without looking at who did it, they would be horrified. If such crimes had been done by the Chinese, Russians, or Iranians, we would hear strong objections and phrases like “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing”, “slave labour”, and “human rights violations”. The fact is that the treatment of the Palestinians is wrong no matter who does it. Nobody has a right to treat another group that way. Boycotts like the ones described are not anti-Israel – they are simply pro Palestinian.

  5. It seems that Canada’s foreign policy towards Israel was not always so blatantly biased on the side of the Jewish State. For more on this I recommend an article which appeared recently in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal by Dr, Jeremy Wildeman entitled “Assessing Canada’s Foreign Policy Approach to the Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Building, 1979-2019.”

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