Rally for Gaza in Canada

Members of the Palestinian diaspora, supported by the local Muslim community and activists, rally for Gaza in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on March 10, 2024.

(Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'A Small Step Forward': Canadian Parliament Backs Ending Arms Exports to Israel

"While imperfect, this is a tangible victory on the road to a Canadian two-way arms embargo with Israel," said one advocacy group.

Canada's Parliament on Monday approved a nonbinding resolution calling on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cut off the country's arms exports to Israel, demand an immediate cease-fire and the release of hostages, and support international legal efforts to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable.

The measure, led by Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP), passed in a 204-to-117 vote after private negotiations between Trudeau's Liberal government and the NDP produced significant changes to the original text, including the removal of language calling for "sanctions on Israeli officials who incite genocide."

The final motion, which Conservatives opposed, calls on Trudeau's government to "cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada's arms export regime," "sanction extremist settlers from Canada," and "demand unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza," among other steps.

"We are dismayed by the failure of Canada's Liberal government to stand up for what is right, for the rule of international law, for humanity, for peace," NDP MP Heather McPherson, the lead sponsor of the original motion, said in a speech ahead of Monday's vote. "Canadians are horrified by a brutal assault on Gaza where over 30,000 civilians have been killed, they were horrified on October 7 by the vile terrorist attack on innocent civilians in Israel by Hamas terrorists, and they are horrified now by the way [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's extremist government has responded."

Michael Bueckert, vice president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), said in a statement that the amended measure does not "go nearly as far as we had hoped for, but it is nonetheless a small step forward for ending Canadian complicity in Israel's genocidal war in Gaza."

"The watering down of the NDP resolution weakens the significance of Parliament's vote, even if it was a major concession forced by the Liberal government to ensure its passage," Bueckert added. "With the passage of this motion, the government has effectively promised to adopt a clear policy to restrict exports, including for already-issued permits, not just a temporary pause on approvals. While imperfect, this is a tangible victory on the road to a Canadian two-way arms embargo with Israel. The NDP must not rest on its laurels and continue to fight Canada's relationship with the Israeli military-industrial complex."

Bueckert said Trudeau's government "must immediately implement the democratic will of Parliament by adopting these demands, and ignore the backlash from those who seek to vilify this motion, including the far-right Israeli government itself."

The motion's passage comes days after the Toronto Starreported that the Trudeau government "stopped approving exports of non-lethal military goods and technology to Israel two months ago amid deepening concerns about possible human rights violations."

"Since Jan. 8, applications for permits to allow Canadian companies to ship tens of millions of dollars worth of non-lethal goods and technology, such as night vision goggles, have been temporarily put on hold because of the difficulty in establishing whether the material could be used in human rights violations," the Star reported, citing unnamed senior government officials.

Data from Global Affairs Canada indicates that Canada exported at least $28.5 million worth of military equipment to Israel in the three months after October 7. A coalition of human rights groups noted in a letter last month to Canada's foreign affairs minister that Canada has exported more than $140 million worth of military goods to Israel over the past decade, "including military aerospace components as well as bombs, missiles, explosives, and associated parts."

"There is substantial concern that some of these weapons could be enabling Israel's operation in Gaza," the groups wrote. "In addition to direct exports, Canadian-produced technology has also been supplied to Israel by first being integrated into US-produced systems, including components incorporated into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Israel has used in its bombing campaign across Gaza."

United Nations experts have called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel, warning last month that "state officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide."

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Monday that it is "pleased to see that a historic vote on the NDP motion on Palestine is likely going to result in historic change for Canada."

"While we recognize that some would have liked the original motion to stay fully together," the group added, "we believe that the NDP did the right thing by tabling the original motion and pushing to make sure that Canada voted in favor of Palestine today. That is history."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

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