Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Stephen Harper/cc/flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands "in lockstep" with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Stephen Harper/cc/flickr)

Harper Government Threatens BDS Supporters with Hate Crime Charges

Rights groups say newly revealed policy change is meant to "scare" critics of Palestinian oppression

Lauren McCauley

The Canadian government is threatening to charge those participating in boycotts of Israel with a hate crime, CBC revealed on Monday.

The information came following an attempt by the news agency to obtain clarification on statements made by federal ministers about a "zero tolerance" approach to supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement protesting Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestinian land.

In response to the query, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who is in charge of federal law enforcement, sent reporters "a detailed list of Canada's updated hate laws, noting that Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of such laws 'anywhere in the world.'"

"Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions," CBC reports. "If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government's lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

The government under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged "steadfast" support for Israel and last year amended the Criminal Code definition for hate speech to include "national origin" as well as race and religion. This, according to Micheal Vonn, an attorney with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, allows the government to use hate crime laws as "a tool to go after critics of Israel."

And Tyler Levitan, a spokesman for the group Independent Jewish Voices, which supports BDS in Canada, agreed, telling CBC that the hate speech policy change is an attempt by the Harper government to silence dissent: "This is about trying to scare people."

As journalist Glenn Greenwald noted in a blog post on Monday, the Canadian government's suppression of anti-Israeli sentiment directly contradicts Harper's alleged support for free speech following the January 2015 terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

"When the views being suppressed are ones amenable to those in power (e.g., cartoons mocking Islam), free speech is venerated," Greenwald writes. "But when ideas are advocated that upset those in power (e.g. speech by Muslims critical of western nations and their allies), the very same people acquiesce to, or expressly endorse, full-scale suppression."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Supreme Court Denies Trump Bid to Conceal Records From Jan. 6 Panel

One government watchdog group welcomed the decision as "a huge win for transparency."

Jessica Corbett ·


Jayapal, Lee Resolution Promotes More Peaceful US Foreign Policy

"It's far past time we take our foreign policy into the 21st century," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "We should be leading with diplomacy and human needs as the path to global security."

Brett Wilkins ·


Anti-War Veterans Group Issues Its Own 'Nuclear Posture Review'

Released ahead of a Biden administration report, the assessment warns that the danger of nuclear war is greater than ever.

Jessica Corbett ·


Critics Warn Puerto Rico Debt Plan Will Lead to More Austerity

"The island's ability to resume growth and avoid cuts in anti-poverty programs are both chief concerns," said one economic justice advocate.

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders, Rights Groups to Biden: End Immigration Detention

"People are losing their lives to a detention system that simply does not need to exist," said one immigrant rights advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo