By The Canadian Press on December 12, 2023.
OTTAWA – Canada voted in favour of a non-binding resolution at the United Nations on Tuesday that calls for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas.
Canada’s position on the non-binding resolution at the UN General Assembly represents a big shift in its long-standing position of voting with Israel on major resolutions at the international body.
“We must recognize that what is unfolding before our eyes will only enhance the cycle of violence,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday on Parliament Hill.
“This will not lead to the durable defeat of Hamas, which is necessary, and the threat that it poses to Israel. With the future of Israelis and Palestinians in mind, Canada is joining the international call for humanitarian ceasefire,” she added.
Canada has stated from the beginning that Israel has the right to defend itself, Joly said. “And how Israel defends itself matters. It matters for the future of both Israelis and Palestinians, and it matters for the future of the region,” she added.
The latest war between Israel and Hamas began after the armed group’s militants launched a surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, including hundreds of civilians, and taking about 240 people hostage.
Israel retaliated with airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and cutting off its access to many essential supplies. More than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed.
“Thousands of children are now orphans,” Joly said Tuesday.
“Countless Palestinian civilians in Gaza are suffering without water, food, fuel or medicine and their homes have been reduced to rubble.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said earlier Tuesday that Israel and Hamas must work toward “a sustainable ceasefire,” starting with another pause in hostilities.
“Canada is committed to ensuring that Israelis and Palestinians get to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders, in peaceful and successful states,” Trudeau said Tuesday on Parliament Hill.
Earlier Tuesday, he had issued a joint statement with his Australian and New Zealand counterparts, outlining a series of stances on the war.
The statement called for Hamas to release the hostages from its “heinous” attack, and noted the group is responsible for sexual violence and “using Palestinian civilians as human shields.”
The leaders are also calling for “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access” to the Gaza Strip and for Israel to stop its siege of the territory.
The statement said Hamas cannot be allowed to govern Gaza, while adding that Israel cannot reoccupy the territory nor displace Palestinians.
The leaders also said they wanted another multi-day truce like one last month that allowed the flow of humanitarian aid and the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary to Joly, said the statement was a way of putting pressure on both parties, while adding that Hamas needs to surrender.
“It takes two parties to make these things work. Ceasefires are always negotiated. So Canada has to push, has to prod,” he told reporters.
“I think the three countries hit the right tone, to move it one step further,” he said of the statement.
Trudeau also said he had a “long and detailed conversation” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, hours ahead of the UN vote.
“We are committed to working with partners in the region and around the world towards an enduring two-state solution,” Trudeau told reporters.
In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press on Monday, Trudeau had said there is no perfect balance for his government to strike in this conflict.
“The intensity of the emotions and the reality for both sides is so intense that normally Canada would look for a line that could be found, to be somewhat balanced in this situation,” he said in French.
“This line does not exist. There is too much pain “¦ to be able to find a mythical fine line of a balanced position.”
Trudeau added in that Monday interview that Ottawa’s stance on the conflict has a limited effect on the conflict, so his government has focused on pushing for humanitarian aid and a viable two-state solution.
In question period on Tuesday, the NDP had called on Canada to support the UN resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Advocates for Israeli hostages still held in Gaza were on Parliament Hill on Tuesday to press the government to impose sanctions on individual members of Hamas.
The Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights has presented a 119-page document that asks the Liberals to sanction specific people affiliated with Hamas, which Canada has deemed a terrorist organization since 2002.
That designation is not enough, the group is arguing, noting that countries like Britain have also sanctioned individuals.
Irwin Cotler, the founder of the advocacy group and a former Liberal justice minister, said the release of hostages needs to be a “stand-alone obligation” on both legal and moral bases, “unrelated to wherever you may stand on the political issues.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023.