Mr. Garneau, expressions of “grave concern” are not enough. Please – just go ahead and implement Canada’s existing policy on Israel/Palestine: CTIP guest columnist

In a press release regarding the current flare up between Israel and the Palestinians, Global Affairs Minister Garneau expressed his “grave concern”. CTIP reader Don Parkinson reader has sent an open letter to the minister arguing that his grave concern is not very helpful. What could be helpful, he argues, would be for Canada to actually apply its existing policy. Read more…..

Since his appointment as Minister of Global Affairs, Hon. Marc Garneau has studiously avoided any criticism of Israel, even trying to prevent an investigation by the International Criminal Court. He ignored the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah as long as he could, even though Canadian official policy opposes any Israeli “unilateral” action in Jerusalem.

Arguably, Canada’s inaction encouraged Israeli aggression in Jerusalem which prompted a strong response by Hamas. Now that the bombing has stopped, it is time for Canada to look at underlying causes and how we can help address them. On many of the “main” issues, Canada’s official policy looks but why don’t we apply it on the ground, asks Don Parkinson. His open letter to Garneau is reprinted here with permission.

Guest columnist Don Parkinson

A former social worker, senior program manager and policy advisor with the Government of Canada.  For several years he was an independent consultant in the areas of social and labour market development. He is now retired and lives in Ottawa. 

Ottawa, May 21, 2021

Dear Honourable Minister Garneau,

I was pleased to see that in your most recent press release on the Israel/Palestine issue (May 12) you said that “Canada remains gravely concerned by the continued expansion of settlements, and by the demolitions and evictions, including the ongoing cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.“

This “grave concern” must come as a relief and big surprise to Palestinians… and to most fair-minded Canadians. It has certainly not been manifested up to now.

Mr. Garneau I am sure you know Canada’s official policy on the Israel Palestine issue. It is there for all to see on various Global Affairs Websites.

To summarize some of the main points here are some excerpts.

  1. Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967. (…) Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
  2. Canada opposes Israel’s construction of the barrier inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are occupied territories. This construction is contrary to international law under the Fourth Geneva Convention”
  3. “Canada believes that a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue is central to a settlement (… ) as called for in UNGA resolution 194 (1948) and United Nations Security Council resolution 242.”
  4. Canada does not recognize Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem.”

Another GAC website claims that: “Canada has been a consistently strong voice for the protection of human rights and the advancement of democratic values.”

Mr. Garneau, these are fine words. But Canada’s ACTIONS have been somewhat different.

  1. When Israel moves to build new settlements, Canada has been missing in action. Not just missing in action, but in words, too.
  2. Canada has done nothing to oppose the construction of, or the extension to, the barrier that Palestinians call the “Apartheid wall”
  3. Canada has acknowledged the refugee issue as a humanitarian issue but has apparently given up on any effort to find a solution in the face of Israel’s stubborn refusal to accept responsibility.
  4. Canada has neither said nor done anything to impede Israel’s unilateral annexation of Jerusalem or its slow motion “Judaization” program, pushing Palestinians out of the historic multi religious, multi-cultural city, in order to turn it into a purely Jewish one.
  5. Canada has been very selective in defending the principle of human rights. We have denounced human rights abuses in China and Myanmar. However, we have been notably silent in the case of Palestinians. When the Israeli human rights organization Bt’selem released a very extensive report on human rights abuses by Israel, you ignored it.

Mr. Garneau, the disconnect between our fine words and our disgraceful inaction is an embarrassment to Canada and should be an embarrassment to you, too.


I can suggest two ways to remedy this.

One way is to refine our GAC website to reflect our REAL policy.

For example, as minister of Global Affairs you could honestly and bravely say:

  1. Canada accepts permanent Israeli control over the West Bank, notwithstanding the Fourth Geneva Convention
  2. Canada has no problem with continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
  3. Canada is really not interested in finding a solution for the 5 million Palestinian refugees. We supported the creation of Israel in 1948 which led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of refugees, but we take no responsibility whatsoever.
  4. Canada has no objection to the “ethnic cleansing” of Jerusalem which has been going on since 1967, of which the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are only the most recent incidents.
  5. Canada does not believe in UNIVERSAL human rights. We believe in defending human rights in certain countries and not others – depending on whether it serves other interests.

That would be an accurate description of our REAL policy.


I would suggest, however, that you consider a better approach. You could reduce the disconnect between our stated policy and our real policy by really trying to APPLY OUR EXISTING POLICY.

For example, as Minister of Global Affairs you could:

  1. instruct our mission head in Ramallah to join with representatives of like-minded countries to oppose actions (demolitions, construction, etc.) which seem likely to make Israeli occupation permanent.
  2. oppose settlement activity, and even support a ban on settlement goods coming into Canada
  3. direct our ambassador at the United Nations take up the issue of finding a just solution for the Palestinian refugees.
  4. forcefully and vigorously oppose unilateral Israeli actions in East Jerusalem, (including but not limited to Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan) and consider economic or political sanctions if they continue
  5. determine a standard for defense of human rights. Canada was one of the initial signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a reason. It is not the “Selective and Partial Declaration of Human Rights”

Mr. Garneau, it is not too late to redeem Canada’s reputation for honesty.

Sincerely, Don Parkinson

Any reader who agrees with Mr. Parkinson can forward this letter to Minister Garneau ( and copy their friends, many of whom may mistakenly believe that what Canada says “on paper” is what we actually do.


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


  1. Mr Garnneau the astronaut visted the space 36 years ago. However he the Canadia minster cannot see or understand what are Human Rights; it’s so sad!

  2. A simple but clear demonstration of the gap between Canada’s official policy and its actions is its policy about wines grown in the Occupied West Bank. It has gone to court to insist that those wines can be labelled “Made in Israel”. This letter deserves our support.

  3. Reading about our record in relation to Israel, for a moment I hallucinated why nor officially ask Israel to manage our foreign policies. That will make matters clearer. Of course if it’s not done so yet.
    Indeed Trudeau and his buddies disgraced us Canadians.History will judge our record and it will be ugly.

    1. Hey Jake, reality might be closer than your hallucinated fiction. I am reliably told that CIJA has an almost permanent “spot” in the PMO to help guide Trudeau’s policies.

  4. Sadly, Garneau was appointed to his position primarily because he has exhibited the sort of weak-kneed approach to hot-button issues with the sturdiness of an earthworm seeking to escape the sharpened end of a barbed fish hook.

    He is the epitome of a mealy mouthed failure hoping to bore the listener or reader into fleeing in quest of a statement with intent other than avoidance.
    We’ve always had policy, Unfortunately real leadership isn’t yet a priority

    1. Hey Allan,
      thanks for chipping in.
      Your comments are principally an ad-hominem attack on Mr. Garneau. I don’t know whether the characteristics to attribute to him are correct or not. But I am pretty sure he IS IMPLEMENTING CURRENT LIBERAL POLICY, which involves saying one thing to a domestic audience and doing something else on the ground.
      Garneau is not a lone actor. Our Israel/Palestine policy is carefully guided by the Prime Minister’s office.

    2. Allan,

      I don’t think that the Liberal attitude on Palestine is a result of some unusual character defects in the Cabinet. I think it is a predictable result of the way that our society has developed in the last 80 years.

      When I was born, one could hear open expressions of anti-semitism in “polite society”. There were areas where Jews could not live, private clubs that would not admit Jewish members, and one often heard disparaging remarks about the “Jewish Race”. This antisemitism was not a result of something that a group of Jews had done, it was a form of nationalism. Many countries had a dominant religion (e.g. Christianity) that Jews rejected. The antisemitism was a form of “us vs them” feelings that rejected people who were different. Antisemitism is not surprising but its openness is surprising today. World War II seems to have changed things. After fighting such a costly bloody war agains such an extremist antisemitic group, made antisemitism socially unacceptable. I do not think that it went away but it sort of went underground. Today, being called an antisemite is an insult and most people will deny it.

      Incidentally, open racism is not dead today. Recently, I encountered two immigrants from Balkan countries in the lobby of my condo talking about Roma in exactly the way that I used to hear people talk about Jews. Shocked, I said, “You cannot say that”. They immediately turned on me and told me that I had not lived in the area and did not know what Roma were really like. They said that they had every right to say those things. Had I caught them talking about Jews (which would not have surprised me) they would have apologized and told me that I was taking their words out of context and that they were not antisemites.

      When the “troubles” (to use an Irish term) began in Palestine, some Jews and some Arabs began to view it as a zero-sum game. They simply assumed that if one side gained something it would be at the expense of another. (You hear similar views about immigration today; for example some people think about immigrants “taking our jobs” rather than “contributing to our society”.) People who voiced support for the Arabs in Palestine, were painted as being against Jews or antisemitic. That, in turn, made them look as if they were somehow aligned with the Nazis. Certain groups (generally pro Israel) have played that card. If they hear a government official voicing support for the Palestinians, shouts of anti-semitism will soon be heard.

      Apparently much of our society accepts that nonsense logic and politicians of many stripes are afraid of it. To improve Canada’s policy towards Palestine it is necessary to remind them that the situation in Palestine is not a zero-sum game. A Palestine/Israel in which Jews and non-Jews worked together in equality would be a far richer and more comfortable country than the one they have now. Support for Palestinian freedom and fair treatment is not a move against Jews. It is a move against racism and racial discrimination.

  5. It seems that Canada is afraid to offended and criticize a client when it comes to point the big failures of the Zionist’s government of Israel in Human Rights and its atrocities against the Palestinies.

  6. Thank you Don for sending this letter Mr. Garneau. With the recent reports by Btselem and Human Rights Watch describing Israel as an apartheid state, it may become increasingly difficult for the Liberal Government in general or Mr. Garneau in particular to continue to talk the talk but not walk the walk.

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