Business of Supply
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in this important debate on a motion today. I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.
Despite what was just said in a question and comment by a friend in the NDP, this is not about a motion that might exist in the future. When we are having a debate in Parliament, it is on the motion on the order paper today, not some hypothetical slippery slope that they would prefer to debate.
What we are debating, clearly are two central things: that as parliamentarians we are not crafting new law but debating an important subject for the nation, and the motion brought forward by the Conservative opposition today in relation to the State of Israel, an ally and friend. It has two central elements. First is our traditional historic ties of friendship and alliance with the State of Israel from its early days, and I will explore some of that in my speech today.
However, the pith of this motion, the critical part of it, was carefully missed by my friend from Victoria. I have the utmost respect for the MP from Victoria. He is a smart gentleman. We practised at the same law firm for a time. However, he wanted to debate a motion that did not exist, as if this was about barring speech. This is not about barring speech; this is about the responsibilities that parliamentarians have to condemn actions that are a cover for hate speech. That is what this motion intends to do. The words are not banning or eliminating free speech. If the hon. member for Victoria and his colleagues looked at the motion, they would see the language is that we “reject” and “condemn” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which in many ways has been a very clever front for anti-Semitic propaganda around the world.
It is sad that some organizations, some groups in Canada, even some labour movement leaders and folks, have supported what is really the thin edge of the wedge of hate. If there is a slippery slope at all here, it is not the slippery slope of this motion; it is the slippery slope of tolerating this type of conduct by the boycott movement. Words like apartheid Israel and things like that are the slippery slope, allowing people to mask their anti-Semitism in some sort of boycott language as if this is a business transaction. In many ways, this movement has been an attempt by people who are opposed to the very presence and existence of the State of Israel to promote intolerance, to promote the economic disruption of a country that happens to be the only true democracy in a region of the world that desperately needs more democracy, more freedom, and more respect for the rule of law and rights.
With regard to this movement, as parliamentarians we have the ability—and hopefully all whips will allow each MP—to not just state our views, but on the motion itself to stand and say whether we condemn this type of conduct, which is the thin edge of the wedge of hate. There is no other way to describe it. It is discrimination and intolerance dressed up as trade sanctions and economic language, in many ways like some groups in the United States that for years tried to legitimatize a front for groups like the Ku Klux Klan and others, having people run for office, clothed in the appearance of debate when it was the advancement of a message that singled out a group of people for hatred and discrimination.
As parliamentarians on all sides of this House, and I am glad that the member for Mount Royal and others have called this what it is, it is our duty to say whether we do condemn this type of dressing up for anti-Semitism. I know that I and many of my colleagues on this side, and clearly many on the other side, see this for what it is. It is the thin edge of the wedge of discrimination.
This is the balance. This is not, as I said, about banning speech. However, our courts and our society have looked at this issue of free speech in the years since the charter. Section 1 of the charter is the attempt for our society and our courts to balance that fundamental freedom of freedom of speech, which is critical, with hate.
Where is the appropriate balance? Courts and jurists have looked at this and tried to strike the right balance when it comes to speech and when it comes to incarceration, as my friend from Mount Royal talked about. The courts have looked at this responsibly to say that we need a society that promotes the freedom of expression, even expression that turns the stomachs of others, provided it does not promote hatred directly against an identifiable group. That is free speech.
Our motion today is about condemning a movement that is dressing up hate speech. We are not banning it, but we are calling it for what it is. I think that is what parliamentarians have a duty to do for their constituents and for the free diverse society that we have. I remember in this place that the Aga Khan talked about how cosmopolitan Canada truly is as a beacon to the world, because of our diversity. People come here to embrace the freedoms and reject the conflicts and hate of other places in the world.
As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ensure that we do condemn, we do reject, we do point out movements that we think are disruptive to our cohesiveness as a diverse society.
The Keegstra case, which the Supreme Court looked at two decades ago, did look at this specific issue. Do members know what the issue was? It was once again anti-Semitism, which sadly is something we cannot stamp out in our society. This was related to a school teacher wilfully promoting conspiracy theories and ridiculous notions that promoted hatred toward the Jewish people. The Supreme Court balanced that fundamental expression issue two decades ago. Therefore, clearly we can balance the fact that parliamentarians can condemn and call conduct for what it is.
I said the motion has two things in the boycott, divestment and sanction movement, which I think many people in this House have said are discrimination and anti-Semitism by other means. It is a way that people are infiltrating the willingness to single out a group of people and promote hatred, whether it is on campuses, in groups, or through organizations. We should call this for what it is.
The other part of the motion today started off with our historic relationship with the State of Israel. It is a very long and proud relationship that I think bears notice in this debate. Canada was one of only 33 countries in the United Nations, in 1947, that supported the creation of what became the State of Israel. We should be proud of that fact, that we stood for friends, for people, particularly after the horrors of the Holocaust.
This is the second time that I will be talking about Lester Pearson in debate this week. My friends will be questioning my Conservative bona fides very soon. Lester Pearson came up in the discussion of withdrawal of the ISIS mission. Pearson would not have supported the move of this current Liberal government. Lester Pearson was the UN special committee chair that looked at issues related to the borders of the State of Israel. He was awarded the Medal of Valor and the Herzl Award for that role. That is good. We remember the shameful slogan that came from the time when Mackenzie King was prime minister. Sadly, it was sometimes said that it was King who said it. It was not Mr. King, but it was someone in his party who said that “none is too many”, talking about accepting Jews into Canada who were fleeing persecution and ultimate death in Europe.
We should be proud that we are condemning such a viewpoint, such exclusion, and such discrimination today with this debate in the House. I was also very proud of the strong stance that the last government took with respect to our friend and ally in Israel.
As an ally, we do not flee our allies when international opinion and discrimination is swarming around them. We work with them. We trade with Israel and we share values with Israel. We protect areas of the world with Israel. We have to remember that friends and allies need to see Canada taking a leadership position. That is why we are here today, not to ban speech but to condemn veiled attempts at anti-Semitism.