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Assessing Canada’s foreign policy approach to the Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, 1979–2019

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Since 1979, Canada has had two distinct foreign policy approaches toward the Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding. This article labels those “Pearsonian” and “Harperian”. To understand both approaches, it starts with the Jerusalem Embassy crisis in 1979 and moves on through the Middle East Peace Process, assessing Canada’s policy up to 2019. In response to international fallout from the 1979 Clark Progressive Conservative government pledge to relocate Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a 1980 Stanfield Report helped orient Canadian regional Middle East policy toward a more Pearsonian approach committed to multilateralism and sensitivity for Arab viewpoints. Successive Canadian governments heeded its advice in an attempt to build peace and regional relationships, while remaining Israel’s close friend. By contrast, starting with the Harper Conservative government in 2006, Canada adopted an approach that clearly favours Israel over and at the expense of the Palestinians. It is a foreign policy approach centred on bilateral relationships with what Canadian political leaders consider countries that are like-minded democracies with shared values. This approach mostly describes Canada’s regional approach from the mid-2000s to 2019.
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#Download citation $https://doi.org/10.1080/11926422.2020.1850488
Research Article
Assessing Canada’s foreign policy approach to
the Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian
peacebuilding, 1979–2019
Published online: 07 Jan 2021
Jeremy Wildeman %
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ABSTRACT
Since 1979, Canada has had two distinct foreign policy approaches toward the
Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding. This article labels those
“Pearsonian” and “Harperian”. To understand both approaches, it starts with the
Jerusalem Embassy crisis in 1979 and moves on through the Middle East Peace
Process, assessing Canada’s policy up to 2019. In response to international fallout
from the 1979 Clark Progressive Conservative government pledge to relocate
Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a 1980 Stan!eld Report helped orient
Canadian regional Middle East policy toward a more Pearsonian approach
committed to multilateralism and sensitivity for Arab viewpoints. Successive
Canadian governments heeded its advice in an attempt to build peace and
regional relationships, while remaining Israel’s close friend. By contrast, starting
with the Harper Conservative government in 2006, Canada adopted an approach
that clearly favours Israel over and at the expense of the Palestinians. It is a
foreign policy approach centred on bilateral relationships with what Canadian
political leaders consider countries that are like-minded democracies with shared
values. This approach mostly describes Canada’s regional approach from the mid-
2000s to 2019.
RÉSUMÉ
Depuis 1979, le Canada a deux approches distinctes de politique étrangère envers
les Palestiniens et la consolidation de la paix israélo-palestinienne. Cet article
quali!e ces approches de « Pearsonienne » et de « Harperienne ». Pour examiner
ces deux approches, il commence par la crise de l'ambassade à Jérusalem en 1979
et se poursuit avec le processus de paix au Moyen-Orient, évaluant la politique
canadienne jusqu'à l'année 2019. En riposte aux retombées internationales de la
promesse du gouvernement progressiste-conservateur Clark de 1979 de
relocaliser l'ambassade du Canada à Jérusalem en 1979, un rapport Stan!eld de
1980 a contribué à orienter la politique régionale canadienne au Moyen-Orient
vers une approche plus « Pearsonienne » engagée dans le multilatéralisme et
sensible aux points de vue arabes. Les gouvernements canadiens successifs ont
suivi ses recommandations dans une tentative de construction de la paix et de
relations régionales, tout en préservant la proche amitié du Canada avec Israël. En
revanche, à partir du gouvernement conservateur Harper en 2006, le Canada a
adopté une approche clairement favorable à Israël, par rapport aux Palestiniens et
à leurs dépens. Il s'agit d'une approche de politique étrangère centrée sur des
relations bilatérales avec ce que les leaders politiques canadiens considèrent
comme des pays qui sont des démocraties aux vues similaires et aux valeurs
communes. Cette approche décrit principalement l'approche régionale du Canada
entre le milieu des années 2000 et 2019.
!! KEYWORDS: Canada Palestinians Pearsonian Harper Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding
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Note on contributor
Jeremy Wildeman, PhD
, is a Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa.
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For Peer Review Only
Assessing Canada’s Foreign Policy Approach to the
Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding, 1979 to
2019
Journal:
Canadian Foreign Policy Journal
Manuscript ID
RCFP-2020-0018.R1
Manuscript Type:
Special Issue Article
Keywords:
Pearsonian, Harper, Palestinians, Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding,
Canada
Abstract:
Since 1979, Canada has had two distinct foreign policy approaches
toward the Palestinians and Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding. This article
labels those “Pearsonian” and “Harperian”. To understand both
approaches, it starts with the Jerusalem Embassy crisis in 1979 and
moves on through the Middle East Peace Process, assessing Canada’s
policy up to 2019. In response to international fallout from the 1979
Clark Progressive Conservative government pledge to relocate Canada’s
embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a 1980 Stanfield Report helped orient
Canadian regional Middle East policy toward a more Pearsonian approach
committed to multilateralism and sensitivity for Arab viewpoints.
Successive Canadian governments heeded its advice in an attempt to
build peace and regional relationships, while remaining Israel’s close
friend. By contrast, starting with the Harper Conservative government in
2006, Canada adopted an approach that clearly favours Israel over and
at the expense of the Palestinians. It is a foreign policy approach centred
on bilateral relationships with what Canadian political leaders consider
countries that are like-minded democracies with shared values. This
approach mostly describes Canada’s regional approach from the mid-
2000s to 2019.
URL: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rcfp
Canadian Foreign Policy Journal
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Canadian
Foreign Policy Journal on 2021 January 7th. The final, definitive, citable version of this paper,
which has been copyedited can be found Taylor & Francis Online at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/11926422.2020.1850488
If you have access, that definitive version at Taylor and Francis is better to work from, because
it includes corrections notably to references and the definitive page numbers to work from.
For Peer Review Only
Assessing Canada’s Foreign Policy Approach to the Palestinians
and Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding, 1979 to 2019
Abstract
Since 1979, Canada has had two distinct foreign policy approaches toward the Palestinians and
Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding. This article labels those “Pearsonian” and “Harperian”. To
understand both approaches, it starts with the Jerusalem Embassy crisis in 1979 and moves on
through the Middle East Peace Process, assessing Canada’s policy up to 2019. In response to
international fallout from the 1979 Clark Progressive Conservative government pledge to
relocate Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a 1980 Stanfield Report helped orient
Canadian regional Middle East policy toward a more Pearsonian approach committed to
multilateralism and sensitivity for Arab viewpoints. Successive Canadian governments heeded
its advice in an attempt to build peace and regional relationships, while remaining Israel’s close
friend. By contrast, starting with the Harper Conservative government in 2006, Canada adopted
an approach that clearly favours Israel over and at the expense of the Palestinians. It is a foreign
policy approach centred on bilateral relationships with what Canadian political leaders consider
countries that are like-minded democracies with shared values. This approach mostly describes
Canada’s regional approach from the mid-2000s to 2019.
Keywords: Canada, Palestinians, Pearsonian, Harper, Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding
Wordcount: 9,085 words
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Introduction
A Crisis in 1979
[Figure 1 Here]
Good Evening. The two day old government of Joe Clark appears headed for its first
diplomatic crisis, a serious confrontation with the Arab World, and it’s all because
Prime Minister Clark seems determined to go ahead with his promise to move the
Canadian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (CBC News Footage, 1979).
Thus, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) anchor Knowlton Nash opened the National
News 1979 June 6th. He was describing one of the more important crises in Canadian foreign
policy history. It began with an electoral pledge in Clark’s 1979 Progressive Conservative Party
campaign platform to relocate the Canadian embassy in Israel, leading to a backlash by Arab
states that threw his government into disarray.
Following Israel’s victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Arab states used a 1973 oil embargo
to inflict significant economic pressure on the United States and other Western countries,
including Canada, for supporting Israel. B. Abu-Laban describes it as an action used against
countries deemed “unfriendly”, as in pro-Israeli (B. Abu-Laban, 1988, p. 118). This caused oil
prices to soar and contributed to a major economic downturn across the West. It exposed the
vulnerability of industrialised regions that depend on oil imports, like Eastern Canada, and
represented a bonanza of new wealth for energy rich regions like Clark’s home province of
Alberta. At the centre of the embargo lay Arab displeasure with Israel’s acquisition of territory
by force, its success at winning wars against its neighbours, its treatment of the Palestinian
people, and support it relied on from Western powers to maintain its regional upper hand. The
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economic shock and successful weaponization of oil caused a significant realignment in
international power structures, as the West was forced to become more mindful of Arab
aspirations (Brynen, 2007, p. 75). The United States became particularly cognisant of the need
to balance the contradictory demands of unflinching support for Israel and preservation of close
ties to the oil rich Gulf monarchies (Oil Embargo, 1973–1974, n.d.). This sparked United
States-led bilateral negotiations with Israel and Arab states culminating in the 1978 Camp
David peace accords between Egypt and Israel.
By pledging to make Canada the first country to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,
only 12 years after Israel seized it in the 1967 Six-Day War, Clark ran head on into the
realignment in Middle East politics. He did that against the advice of his own Ministers and
the Department of External Affairs (Hilliker, 2018, pp. 307–308). The relocation would have
amounted to de facto recognition of Israel’s acquisition of territory by force and inflame the
very point Arab states had protested with their embargo. Though the Clark government would
only stay in power for 9 months, in no small measure due to this crisis, its actions and response
would have a long-term impact on Canada’s Middle East foreign policy. The Clark experience
would also illustrate two ways Canada approaches the region: either as a partisan advocate of
its closest bilateral friends and allies, namely (since 1979) Israel and the United States; or as
an advocate of a multilateral and internationalist approach, trying to bridge the divide between
allies and non-allies.
Approaches in Canada’s Middle East Foreign Policy
This paper assesses Canada’s foreign policy approach toward the Palestinians and Israeli-
Palestinian peacebuilding, which is often done through the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).
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The paper argues there are two ways Canada has approached these matters, roughly
corresponding to two time periods: one comprising Pierre Elliott (PE) Trudeau’s Liberal, Brian
Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative and Jean Chrétien’s Liberal governments (1980-2003);
the other comprising Stephen Harper’s Conservative and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal governments
(2006-2019). Martin’s Liberal government (2003-6) was a time of transition in-between. This
paper explores the two approaches by describing the first period as Pearsonian in nature,
corresponding to the jumble of liberal internationalist ideas – such as a commitment to
international institutions, multilateralism, human rights, diplomacy ahead of conflict,
mediation and peacebuilding – often associated with Pearsonianism. Bothwell describes
Pearsonianism as the Canadian approach to foreign affairs from around the early Twentieth to
early Twenty-First Centuries (2017, pp. 27-28). It is named after Canada’s Nobel Prize winning
Secretary of State for External Affairs (SSEA) (1948-57) and Prime Minister of Canada (1963-
68), Lester B. Pearson, who also played a key role in the creation of Israel in 1948 (Tauber,
1998; Newport, 2014). The second period’s approach is centred on bilateral relationships built
on a foundation of (perceived) shared values with “like-minded” Western democracies. The
approach is named after a lead proponent from 1979 to 2019, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
To understand Canada’s foreign policy toward the Palestinians and MEPP, this paper also takes
into consideration Canada’s relationship with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) more
broadly. The limited scholarly literature that exists on Canada and MENA typically addresses
only a few important events, like Canada’s role in the establishment of Israel (1947-48), the
Suez Crisis and Canadian peacekeeping in 1956, and the Clark embassy crisis. The literature
also tends to focus on Canada’s bilateral relationship with Israel, at the neglect of analysis of
relations with other MENA states and societies (Labelle, 2018, p. 170).
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In what literature does exist on Canada and the Palestinians, the MEPP and MENA, there is a
striking difference in analysis offered by scholars who apply a positivist lens to foreign policy
research and those who take a critical, postcolonial perspective. From the positivist side, a
traditional line of thinking has been to describe Canada’s role in the region through a liberal
idealist lens. There Canada is considered a mostly neutral and fair-minded actor striving for a
just and lasting regional peace. Thus, Canada is framed as a quintessential peacemaker acting
as an interlocutor between its friends and allies, Israel and the United States, with non-allies
among the Arab and Islamic states. A case for this approach is made in a 2007 volume edited
by Heinbecker and Momani, Canada and the Middle East in Theory and Practice.
The liberal-idealist approach is tempered by a realist analysis of Canada’s foreign policy.
Scholars like Gotlieb (2005) and Nossal (2003) suggested Canada is less a “do-gooder” state
than one pursuing its national interest, regardless of official rhetoric and any outward embrace
of international accords. Nossal (2003) has been particularly critical of scholarship that takes
Canada’s liberal rhetoric at face value, of Canadian intervention in other states’ affairs, and a
Canadian propensity to lecture and moralise onto others about Canada’s superior way of life.
He describes this as hypocritical given Canada’s own treatment of indigenous peoples (ibid, p.
1), and how Canada will act swiftly in a zero-sum manner to protect its national interests. Other
recent research by Foster (2018) considers Canadian foreign policy through its competition for
energy markets. There, Canada operates in tandem with fellow shale oil mega-producer, the
United States, competing against lower-cost producers like those found in MENA. In this new
era, higher prices and embargoes against Western buyers could be a potential boon for cost-
intensive regions like Alberta, who can easily be outcompeted by MENA energy providers.
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Critical, postcolonial scholars take particular consideration of race, identity and shared values.
This perspective posits that identity draws Canada to naturally empathise with Israel as a fellow
Western democracy, like the United Kingdom and United States. This tilt favouring Israel
includes racist perceptions toward the “Other” people in MENA, where Arabs have all-too-
often been characterised as less civilised, irrational by nature and extremist in their religious
fanaticism. Y. Abu-Laban and Bakan (2008) assert that race constitutes a basis of partisan
support for Israel in Canada. Scholars like Bahdi (2019), Labelle (2019), and Monaghan and
Santos (2020) link this to a general anti-Arab racism permeating Canadian society, which is
tied to a shared value of settler colonial dispossession of indigenous peoples (Bahdi & Kassis,
2016; Labelle, 2019; Monaghan & Santos, 2020, p. 5).
Labelle (2019) notes many Arab Canadians have long perceived racist logic behind Canada’s
unequal treatment favouring the Israeli-Jewish discourse over the Palestinian (p. 166). In
arguing why, Husseini (2008) observes while more mainstream scholars stress the positivist
liberal and realist viewpoints to understand Canada’s MENA foreign policy, factors like
religion and shared values are intrinsic to understanding Western support for Israel (p. 53).
While a pro-Israel tilt may be longstanding, Brynen (2007) says Canadians began showing
increasing sympathy to Palestinians in the 1980s (p. 75), even if it did not translate to elite
levels.
Meanwhile, Nossal (2014), Barry (2012), Sasley (2011), and Sasley and Jacoby (2007),
describe how electoral politics have shaped Canada’s MENA and Israel-Palestine foreign
policy. This was intrinsic to the Clark embassy story, and electoral calculi seem to have
morphed over time into a Canadian government propensity to back Israel unquestioningly,
regardless of party in power. Though Canada’s dominant ally the United States bears great
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influence on Canada’s MENA foreign policy (Juneau, 2017, p. 406; McKercher, 2014, p. 329;
Stein, 1989, pp. 375–376), Canadian support for Israel has a logic of its own, and occasionally
leads to friction with United States regional efforts. In all instances, Canada remains a very
close ally of the United States and friend of Israel.
Canada and the Early Years of the Middle East Peace Process
The Clark Campaign Pledge
From 1967 November to 1979 June, Canadian policy on Jerusalem was based on full support
of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) S/RES/242, opposing Israel’s
acquisition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – the West Bank, Gaza and East
Jerusalem – in the 1967 Six-Day War. It called for Israeli withdrawal and a negotiated
settlement among the warring states (Flicker, 2002, p. 117). While S/RES/242 was adopted
1967 November, in July that year Canada voted in favour of United Nations General Assembly
Resolution (UNGA) A/RES/2253 condemning any unilateral alteration to Jerusalem’s status
by Israel (External Affairs and International Trade Canada, 1993, p. 12). Clark’s 1979
campaign pledge contradicted both resolutions.
Clark had made the pledge to the Jewish community as leader of the opposition, at the Canada-
Israel Committee (CIC) 1979 April 2nd in Toronto. He iterated support for relocating the
embassy by saying, “‘next year in Jerusalem’, a Jewish prayer which we intend to make a
Canadian reality” (Giniger, 1979). He reiterated the pledge at his first news conference after
his election (Hilliker, 2018, p. 308). Commentators have speculated why he made the pledge
and whether an electoral calculus was involved. In a tight election, Clark may have sought to
sway Jewish voters in key urban Ontario ridings from a traditional allegiance to the Liberals
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(Ripsman & Blanchard, 2002, p. 163). Some speculate Clark believed this was the right,
principled move (Flicker, 2002, pp. 118–123). Clark’s predecessor and successor, PE Trudeau
(1968-89, 1980-84), describes Clark as unwise and “getting into a lot of difficulty” for taking
up a cause of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, which Trudeau says he himself resisted
despite electoral threats from Begin (Trudeau, 1993, pp. 215–216).
External Affairs feared Canada could be cut off from Middle East oil imports, valuable to
Eastern Canada, and that Arab investments would be withdrawn at a time Canada needed to
borrow regularly for large deficits (Ripsman & Blanchard, 2002, pp. 159–161). Ever conscious
of Canada’s close relationship with the United States, officials were worried relocating the
embassy would create unnecessary tension (Hilliker, 2018, p. 307). The United States had just
overseen a tenuous 1978 Camp David peace agreement and the Carter Administration had an
eye on a larger Middle East peace process (Flicker, 2002, p. 124). Canadian officials were also
concerned a decade of trying to present Canada as neutral in the region was crumbling rapidly,
and its image as a peacekeeper ruined (CBC News Footage, 1979).
The Clark government was hammered by economic and diplomatic threats. The Arab League
said any action to move the embassy would be considered an act of aggression against Arab
sovereignty. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Arab League said they would
stop at nothing to block Canada’s move. Egyptian Ambassador to Canada, Hassan Fahmy,
warned the PLO response could escalate to terrorist attacks (ibid.). In the diplomatic corps,
questions were asked as-to-why Clark was risking so much in a move not vital to Israel’s
security. Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, Mordechai Shalev, said while appreciated, the move
was unnecessary and Israel had no doubt about the depth of Canada’s friendship (ibid).
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By late June, Clark announced he would appoint former Progressive Conservative Party leader
(1967-76), Robert L Stanfield, as “Special Representative of the Government of Canada
Respecting the Middle East and North Africa”. Stanfield was tasked with studying the embassy
move before any action was taken. This was also meant to give the Clark government breathing
room to think. Stanfield’s terms of reference were to: find ways to enhance Canada’s
relationship with the MENA countries , determine how Canada could contribute to a just and
lasting regional peace, and see if there was a way to compatibly implement the Clark
government policy on Jerusalem (Taras & Goldberg, 1989, pp. 158–159).
Stanfield quickly issued a 1979 October interim report urging the government to refrain from
moving the embassy. As the 1978 Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel had not yet
led to broader regional peace, Stanfield cautioned moving the embassy could derail the larger
United States effort (ibid., 1989, p. 159). President Carter impressed this point upon Clark in
person, too (ibid., p. 161). By 1979 October 29th, the Clark government had abandoned its
plans. Opposition leaders accused his government of damaging Canada's credibility (Giniger,
1979). Clark’s minority government fell 1979 December 13th. The embassy affair no doubt
contributed to its fall (Flicker, 2002, p. 137). The events would also help orient Canada’s
MENA foreign policy for the following two decades.
The Stanfield Report
Stanfield’s tour took him across the Middle East and his final report would bear the liberal
internationalist spirit of Pearsonian foreign policy. While it acknowledged Canada’s Western
European roots and closest ties were with the United States, United Kingdom and Israel, the
report suggested those ties should not preclude good relations with the broader Arab world.
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Stanfield felt Canada could and should aspire toward positive relations with everyone, and
Canada would be well received if sincere when doing so (Stanfield, 1980, pp. 2-3).
Everywhere Stanfield went, the central message conveyed to him was improving Canada’s
standing in the region was tied to its foreign policy on Israel and the Palestinians. Meanwhile,
it seemed clear that Israel-Palestine drove conflict in the Middle East. In Stanfield’s view, this
endangered world peace while misdirecting scarce resources toward defence that could be
better used elsewhere (ibid, p. 2). Ultimately, Stanfield concluded Canada’s contribution to a
just and lasting peace was more important than economic interests. So, he felt the most useful
role Canada could play in MENA was to become a mediator addressing the conflict between
opposing sides. To do that, Canada would need the respect of the governments and peoples of
the region, which would require Canada be viewed as fair-minded. That would mean avoiding
total identification with one opposing party over another (ibid, p. 14).
Stanfield said Canada was right to have supported S/RES/242 because it offered the best
foundation for a comprehensive peace (ibid, p. 6), by providing land for a future Palestinian
state. He also said it was questionable how far Israel's concern for security could justify
territorial claims in the OPT, if those negated the possibility for a Palestinian homeland (ibid,
p. 6). Meanwhile, Stanfield emphasised the Arab governments he met were categorical in
asserting there cannot be regional peace until Palestinian’s rights are recognised (ibid, p. 7).
A Pearsonian Approach
When Clark made Stanfield’s report public 1980 February 29th, Solomon (1980) described it
as “pro-Palestinian” in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, noting its support for the Palestinian
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people’s right to a homeland and self-determination (p. 4). This was one of the Clark
government’s final acts before handing power to PE Trudeau 1980 March 4th. The report would
influence successive Canadian governments. After Trudeau returned to power, Canada
established relations with the PLO (see Robinson in this publication). Flicker suggests
Canada’s United Nations voting record became more balanced, and notes Canada strongly
criticising Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon (2002, p. 137). In a 1982 press release about the
situation in the West Bank and Gaza, the Government of Canada (GOC) called for a negotiated
resolution to the “dispute”, Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, peace and
secure borders for all states in the region, and recognition of the Palestinian people’s legitimate
rights (Department of External Affairs, 1982).
In Canada, views related to Israel and the Palestinians were also changing. Among Liberal
party back-benchers, there were growing popular doubts about the legitimacy of Israel’s
actions during its invasion of Lebanon (Hilliker, 2018, p. 390). At the public level, Canadians
became increasingly concerned with the lot of the Palestinians (Stanfield, 1980, p. 3).
Notwithstanding generally low interest in MENA affairs, by late 1982 there was evidence of
growing support for the Palestinian cause (Arab Studies Quarterly, 1983, p. 292). This included
majority Canadian public support for a Palestinian state, and a fairly even 19 to 15 percent split
in support for the respective Israeli and Palestinian narratives (ibid., pp. 292–293). Suleiman
argued those opinions were affected by Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the Sabra and Shatila
massacres (Suleiman, 1984, p. 105). Yet, when Canadian sympathies appeared to realign in
favour of Israel in an unpublished 1984 Gallup poll, with 28 percent expressing sympathy for
Israel to 12 percent for Palestinians; by a margin of 38 to 22 percent, Canadians supported a
statement that there would be no peace until Palestinians have self-determination (Gallup,1984,
as quoted in B. Abu-Laban, 1988, p. 121). A 1985 Senate Standing Committee on Foreign
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Affairs report on Canada’s Relations with MENA would reinforce Stanfield’s conclusion that
Canada had a deep interest in the Middle East’s stability, which was most threatened by the
Arab-Israeli conflict (p. v.).
PE Trudeau was briefly succeeded by Liberal Prime Minister John Turner (1984), whose
successor, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984-93), was himself
sympathetic to Israel. At the 1987 Francophonie Summit, Canada refused to endorse a
resolution affirming the principle of Palestinian self-determination. Now Canada’s SSEA
(1984-91), Joe Clark explained that Canada could not abandon its long-standing objection to
the phrase, even if Canada accepted the notion of there being an eventual homeland for
Palestinians (Rose, 1987). Mulroney describes then Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres
thanking him for stopping the “anti-Israeli” motion, and says he assured Peres he would do-so
again (Mulroney, 2011, 1986: 5. Tough Decisions). Mulroney also says during “disturbances”
in the West Bank and Gaza in 1987, the December beginning of the First Intifada, Canada was
the first major industrialised country to offer Israel support at a “critical moment” when even
President Ronald Reagan expressed displeasure with Israel (2011, Personal Journal: January 1,
1988). He says his position was Jews alone must make value judgements respecting their
national security (ibid.).
Still, the Mulroney government largely went along with the Stanfield approach. In its 1987/88
Annual Report, External Affairs wrote of special concern were, “human rights abuses arising
from the Israeli authorities' efforts to restore order through their ‘iron fist policy’" (Department
of External Affairs, 1988, p. 55). Canada was also ready to support United States regional
peace-efforts. Meanwhile, in External Affairs’ 1985/86 Annual Report, it described how
Canada would strive for a peace settlement that guaranteed Israel’s security and well-being,
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but provided, “the opportunity for Palestinians to realise their right to participate in negotiations
to determine their future, and to have a homeland in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”
(Department of External Affairs, 1987, p. 43) .
Clark became something of a champion of Stanfield’s recommendations (see Robinson in this
volume). Speaking with measured bluntness to the CIC in 1988, a year into the First Intifada
(1987-1991), Clark said, “Human rights violations, such as we have witnessed in the West
Bank and Gaza in these past agonizing weeks, are totally unacceptable, and in many cases are
illegal under international law” (Barrett, 1988). This could not sound more different in tone
from his 1979 pledge and was poorly received by the CIC audience. Despite being one of
Israel’s staunchest supporters, the Canadian government was also losing patience with Israel
and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government (1983-84, 1986–1992) for not
cooperating with United States regional peacebuilding efforts. Meanwhile, the Palestinians
were drawing broad global sympathy for their uprising (Intifada) against Israeli rule. By 1988
February, Gallup found 17.5 percent of Canadians sympathising with Palestinians versus 15.7
percent with Israelis (Canada, 2019).
In 1989, Clark announced Canada would support Palestinian self-determination (External
Affairs Canada, 1989). This opened a new era in Canada’s relations with Israel, the Palestinians
and the MENA region, and this approach would largely be sustained by the Chrétien Liberal
government. With United States leadership of the MEPP through the 1993 Oslo Accord, 1994
Paris Protocol and 1995 Oslo II Accord, Canada had clear signalling from its powerful ally
how to approach the peace process. The GOC would itself start, for three decades, to
characterise its commitment to Israel and the Palestinians as pursuing the, “goal of a
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comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian
state living side by side in peace and security with Israel” (Government of Canada, n.d.).
[Figure 2 Here]
During its time, the Chrétien government condemned Israeli settlement building in the OPT
for violating international law, (Brynen, 2007, p. 77) as well as Palestinian terrorism and
excessive Israeli retaliation. The GOC specifically supported what it called “fair-minded”
peace initiatives (External Affairs and International Trade Canada, 1993, p. 23). Canada would
support Palestinian self-determination, autonomy and even the possibility of a state, based on
a negotiated settlement with Israel; along with Israel’s right to exist within secure borders
(ibid., pp. 18, 22–23). At the United Nations, Canada parted company with the United States
and Australia, joining the overwhelming majority of world states by either supporting or
abstaining from resolutions sponsored by Arab states criticising Israel’s: occupation of the
OPT, attacks against civilians and nuclear weapons programme (Barry, 2012, p. 196). From
1992 to 2000, Canada was intensively involved in the multilateral part of the MEPP, notably
as chair of the Refugee Working Group (RWG) and sponsor of the Track II Ottawa Process of
negotiations. Robinson (2011) writes this mostly happened “below the radar in terms of public
perception”, but these efforts became a positive element for Canada’s relations with MENA
countries (p. 695). Canada’s leadership role in the RWG was well received and appreciated in
Washington and the Western alliance system, too.
The liberal, multilateralist approach became so dominant under Chrétien that many scholars
considered it to define Canada’s MENA foreign policy (Heinbecker & Momani, 2007; Jacoby,
2000; Stein, 1989). It reflected a Pearsonian Canada invested in a rules-based international
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system built on respect for international law and participation in multilateral institutions. At
one point on a state visit to Israel, the OPT and Jordan in 2000 April, Prime Minister Chrétien
was reported saying Palestinians had a right to declare independence unilaterally (Sallot, 2000).
Chrétien writes in his memoirs he was only engaging in speculation, but that he was stating the
obvious, which was Palestinians would eventually have a state (Chrétien, 2008, p. 348-49).
A New Canadian Approach to the MEPP
The Martin Liberal Government
Global politics and the Middle East changed following the 2001 September 11th (9/11) terrorist
attacks. By then the MEPP was in deep crisis, having the previous year descended into a violent
Second Intifada (2000-6). This time the Palestinians were armed and frequently carried out
terrorist attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings. Israel had an overwhelming
preponderance in might, however, and the occupied Palestinians suffered overwhelming losses
(Second Intifada – Summary of Data, 2010). The impact of 9/11 was to transform how Western
states like Canada viewed their own security, MENA politics and Israel-Palestine.
Canada and key Western allies like the United States were already inclined to feel more in
common with Israel, as compared to Muslims, Arabs and Middle Easterners. An already close
political identification between Israel and Canada became tied to a post-9/11 “war on terror”
security framework, which positions the interests of Western states as identical to Israel’s (Y.
Abu-Laban & Bakan, 2010). As Musu and Arsenault point out in this volume, Palestinian
terrorist attacks had a marked impact on Western opinion against Palestinians. Meanwhile,
Israel was able to use its experience suppressing Palestinians to market itself as a global expert
and ally combating Arab and Islamic terrorism (Y. Abu-Laban & Bakan, 2012, p. 329).
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Separately, but in this context, change began to take place in Canada’s approach to the MEPP,
particularly once Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin (2003-6) came to power. Under Martin,
Canada began to align its foreign policy more closely with Israel.
Canada drew attention at the United Nations as it shifted to a more pro-Israel voting pattern
(C. Clark, 2004). Leech-Ngo and Swan (2019, p. 34) analysed Canada’s voting patterns on
sixteen resolutions that took place every year, 2000 to 2016, at the UNGA pertaining to issues
on Palestine, which may be considered sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. They found a
notable shift take place from almost exclusively in favour of all sixteen under Chrétien, to less
enthusiastic support under Martin (ibid., p. 34). That included several Martin-era “no” votes
(ibid., p. 35). Perhaps more remarkable was a change in tone, as the Martin government
expressed a desire Israel not be singled out on the international stage. It also stressed the
importance of shared identities and values. Then Minister of Human Resources Joe Volpe said,
I think that we've attempted in the past and we continue to try to get a position that's
balanced, but clearly we want to reinforce the fact that we support countries that are
democratic, that support the same values that we support, i.e., the rule of law, freedom,
human rights. And we try to reflect that in all of our actions at the UN (C. Clark, 2004).
At one point Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Allan Rock, levelled a scathing
denunciation of UNGA resolutions on Israel (ibid.). This was echoed by several Liberal MPs
who felt Canada cannot support unbalanced resolutions attacking Israel without pointing out
similar violations by the Palestinian Authority (ibid.). Martin himself says on entering office
he disagreed with the Department of Foreign Affairs that United Nations resolutions on the
region had been balanced, saying no doubt in his mind Israel was being singled out (Martin,
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2009, p. 350). This included his view the Human Rights Council, which he felt included some
of the world’s greatest human rights abusers, had been “egregiously politicised with a deep
hostility toward Israel”, and needed to be replaced (ibid, p. 338). Despite all this, Seligman
writes (2018, p. 91) the Martin government did not feel support for Israel should come at the
expense of Canadian support for United Nations multilateralism (and Pearsonianism). Martin’s
successor would seem not to agree.
A Harperian Middle East Foreign Policy
On 2006 February 6th, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party came to power. The Harper
government brought with it the views of a strand of Canadian conservativism that had not
traditionally occupied the upper rings of power in Canada’s conservative movement. The base
of that movement prioritised traditional alliances with countries it perceived Canada sharing
values with, like the United States and United Kingdom. Many of its members were pro-Israel
evangelicals who considered Israel an oasis of democracy and civilisation surrounded by
dangerous dictatorships and brutality (Barry, 2012, p. 193; JTA, 2014). The movement was
sceptical about international institutions and forms of governance, and exhibited hostility
toward the myths and ideas associated with Pearsonianism (Bothwell, 2017, pp. 30).
Like Clark, one of Harper’s immediate foreign policy tests was in the Middle East. Hamas, a
group the GOC listed as a terrorist organisation 2002 November 27th (Public Safety Canada,
2019), won the 2006 January 25th Palestinian legislative election. Harper immediately sided
with Israel in 2006 March by making Canada the first country, after Israel, to cut off aid and
diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority (Galloway, 2006). Many followed, led by the
United States, in an effort to bring down the new Palestinian government. This marked the
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beginning of a new Canadian approach to MENA and MEPP foreign policy, which clearly
favoured the Israeli narrative over the Palestinian (Bloomfield & Nossal, 2007, p. 301). It
marked a turn to a type of MENA foreign policy that prioritised partisan bilateral support for a
like-minded Western state, over Pearsonian internationalism and Stanfield’s fair-mindedness.
While in power (2006-15), the Harper government departed sharply from previous policy. Like
Clark decades earlier, it saw a path to electoral victory that included wooing the support of
Jewish voters by taking an even stauncher public stance than the Liberals in support of Israel
(Nossal, 2014, pp. 16–17). There is evidence to suggest this was successful at winning votes
in key urban ridings (Sasley, 2011). Further, since his party’s core of Anglo-Protestant
supporters was not large enough to achieve power, Harper appealed to non-traditional
Conservatives, including Jews, on the basis of shared social values (Barry, 2012. pp. 191).
While Martin had shifted Canada’s United Nations voting patterns closer to Israel, the Harper
government would take a harder line (Leech-Ngo & Swan, 2019, pp. 32–33; Nossal, 2014). By
2008 January, Canada distinguished itself as the only country to vote against a Human Rights
Council (2008) resolution calling for Israel to immediately lift its siege on Gaza and for the
protection of the Palestinian civilians, in compliance with human rights law and international
humanitarian law. Of the sixteen resolutions Leech-Ngo and Swan analysed, from 2006 to 2010
they found Canada’s votes split fairly even between yes and no, with some abstentions. From
2011 to 2014, they found a near inverse of the Chrétien years, with Canada voting against
fourteen of sixteen resolutions (2019, p. 35)
[Figure 3 Here]
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During the 2006 Lebanon War, Harper diverged from Western condemnation of Israel by
insisting Israel was defending itself appropriately against terrorism. During the 2008/09 Gaza
War his Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon blamed Hamas solely for the violence (Sasley,
2011). In each case, Israel was portrayed as the victim and voice of reason. By 2010 February,
without any treaty obligations Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent claimed, “an
attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada” (Chase, 2010). At the 2011 G8
Summit at Deauville, France, Canada refused to offer United States President Obama
unanimity on a proposal for Middle East negotiations (Baker & Ljunggren, 2011). Musu
observed Canada’s approach shift from one of a positive-sum game, seeing no contradiction in
supporting both Israeli and Palestinian aspirations; to a zero-sum approach where criticism of
Israeli policies was seen as incompatible with Canada’s friendship with Israel (2012, p. 72).
In 2012 November, Canada sought to block a United Nations vote recognising Palestine as a
Permanent Observer State and threatened to retaliate by cutting off tens-of-millions of dollars
in aid from the Palestinians. On several occasions, Harper’s government refused to criticize the
construction of new Israeli settlements in the OPT. While visiting Israel in 2014 he rebuffed
questions about settlements saying he would not stand in the Middle East and criticize Israel
(C. Clark, 2014). In a speech to Israel’s Knesset, he reinforced the idea of mutual security when
reflecting on a Jewish prayer promising, “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you”
(Payton, 2014). In 2015, a “Canada-Israel Joint Declaration of Solidarity and Friendship”,
stated their friendship was built, “first and foremost on shared values” around a shared
“‘passionate belief in, and willingness to defend, the principles of freedom, democracy, human
rights and the rule of law” (Global Affairs Canada, 2015).
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When acting without hesitation in support of Israel, the Harper government argued it was
taking a principled position, because Canada and Israel share common democratic values
including transparent elections, an independent judiciary, a free press, and human rights
(Wiseman, 2012). The Canadian Prime Minister was unequivocally siding with one party over
the other. Joe Clark himself wrote in 2014 that Canadian Ministers became, “more categorical
in their commitment to Israel than any other international issue”, and that Canada’s support
had become more adamant than Israel’s close friend the United States (p. 84). Clark also wrote
that beyond the Middle East, a fierce commitment to Israel framed Canada’s approach to
international issues, including the United Nations (ibid.). Some scholars and diplomats ranked
this foreign policy shift the most dramatic in post-1945 Canadian history (JTA, 2014). Lynk
(2015) referred to the Harper years as a supine embrace of an Israel deeply at odds with
international law and opinion. Clark said Harper’s outspoken and one-sided positions limited,
or eliminated, Canada’s capacity to act as a mediator or calming influence on the “increasingly
volatile” Middle East (J. Clark, 2014, p. 84). Robinson wrote Canada lost the credibility
necessary to contribute to Middle East peacebuilding (2011, p. 718). The foreign policy
approach may have helped cost Canada its 2010 bid for an UNSC seat (CBC News, 2010), too.
However, unlike 1979 there was not a broad MENA backlash against Canada for any one event
or reverse of course by the Harper government.
The Justin Trudeau Liberal Government
From 2003 to 2015, Canada’s MENA foreign policy shifted from one of careful balance to one
overwhelmingly favouring Israel (Barry, 2012, p. 191). Technically, Canada’s official policies
toward the MEPP had not really changed since the 1990s. Rather, there had been a change in
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style and actions. After PE Trudeau’s son, Justin Trudeau, led the Liberals to power in a 2015
campaign that staked his party’s reputation on reinvigorating the institutional liberal order
(Sands & Carment, 2019, p. 285), he immediately proclaimed, “Canada is back” to Canadians
and the international community (Browne, 2019). The campaign elicited a sense of optimism
Canada would return to a more fair-minded approach to Israel and the Palestinians, too
(Seligman, 2018, p. 80).
Differences between Justin Trudeau and Harper are discernible. After gaining power, the
Trudeau Liberals began funding the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA)
for Palestinian refugees with a $25 million 2016/17 fiscal year commitment (Global Affairs
Canada, n.d.), followed by $35 million in 2017/18 (Global Affairs Canada, 2019, p. 21) and
$30 million in 2018/19 (Global Affairs Canada, 2020, p. 21). This was after Harper cut funding
to UNRWA in the 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 fiscal years in retaliation for the
2008/9 Gaza War. The Trudeau government’s decision came as the United States Trump
Administration decided, in 2018, to defund UNRWA as part of a process to: put pressure on
Palestinians to acquiesce to a new political deal with Israel (Amr, 2018), redefine and eliminate
the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees (Ahren, 2019), and ultimately eliminate
UNRWA (T. O. I. staff & Agencies, 2018). Trudeau’s decision to fund UNRWA not only runs
contrary to President Trump’s regional strategy, but sometimes vociferous opposition by
Canadian Jewish groups (Csillag, 2019a). It also marked a return to a Stanfield
recommendation that Canada fund UNRWA, as part of the international community’s
obligation to Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 (1980, p. 13).
When in 2017 the Trump Administration announced it would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s
capital and move the United States embassy there, Trudeau’s government explicitly rejected
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following suit (Zilio, 2017). In a declassified email, Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland was
advised Canada’s long-standing position was the status of Jerusalem can only be resolved as
part of a general Israeli-Palestinian settlement (Webster, 2017, p. 3). Canada even risked
President Trump’s ire by abstaining on a 2017 UNGA resolution declaring his recognition of
Jerusalem as Israel’s capital null and void (Blanchfield, 2017). There an abstention may be
effectively understood as an endorsement. Meanwhile, Canada’s Conservative opposition party
pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in their 2019 campaign platform. In 2019
December, two months after being re-elected with a minority government, Trudeau’s Liberals
backed an UNGA resolution supporting Palestinian self-determination (Csillag, 2019b).
[Figure 4 Here]
Similarities between Harper and Justin Trudeau abound. During nine years in power, Harper’s
embrace of Israel extended into the domestic sphere. He carried out a crackdown on civil
society organisations, government funded bodies and individuals speaking out in favour of
Palestinian rights (Y. Abu-Laban & Bakan, 2012; Wildeman, 2017). While there was an
opening up after Harper left office, the Trudeau government has publicly disparaged Palestine
rights advocates. When in 2016 Western Law Professor Michael Lynk was appointed United
Nations “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory
occupied since 1967”, Trudeau’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion immediately joined
Israel to severely condemn the appointment (JTA & The CJN, 2016). Trudeau has also gone
out of his way to condemn student and community advocates of Palestine rights, including over
Twitter (Arnold, 2016) and on campaign (Times of Israel staff, 2019).
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Though Trudeau’s government caught the attention of many observers by backing the 2019
December UNGA resolution on Palestinian self-determination, this owed much to its first term
(2015-19) voting record. Leech-Ngo and Swan had found, “despite the mild rhetorical shift
around moving towards a more balanced’ approach, there has been absolutely no deviation in
voting between the previous Harper government and the Trudeau Liberals” (2019, pp. 34–35).
The Trudeau government has also been adamant in arguing Israel is singled out unfairly at the
United Nations (CIJA, 2017). Those views reflect continuity with the Harper-era “Canada-
Israel Joint Declaration of Solidarity and Friendship”, which expressed anxiety over efforts to
isolate and demonize the State of Israel (Global Affairs Canada, 2015).
Other investigative work suggests Trudeau’s government has actively helped Israel at the
multilateral level in various United Nations agencies (Larson, 2018). Like the Harper
government, on 2020 February 14th Canada submitted a letter to the International Criminal
Court (ICC) reiterating Canada’s position that Canada does not recognise a Palestinian state,
so Palestine does not qualify for jurisdiction in an ICC investigation into Israeli war-crimes in
the OPT. The Canadian Jewish News was told this is the same official position Canada
submitted in 2018 and 2015 (Csillag & Reporter, 2020). The Trudeau government further
supported the expansion of the Canadian Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) to permit
goods and services produced in Israeli West Bank settlements, to enter Canada on the same
tariff-free terms as goods and services from Israel (Lynk & Neve, 2019). This would
economically advantage Israeli settlement growth and directly contradict Canada’s
longstanding position on settlements and international law. When in 2019 a Canadian court
ruled against Israeli settlement wines being labelled “Product of Israel” for being “false,
misleading or deceptive”, in David Kattenburg v the Attorney General of Canada, the Attorney
General of Canada chose to appeal.
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Today the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian conflict are much more familiar to Canadians
than in the 1980s. Recent polling suggests broad sympathy for the Palestinians. In 2017, an
EKOS poll found far more Canadians have a negative view of the Israeli government than a
positive one, and most Canadians consider the Canadian government biased in favour of Israel
(CJPME & EKOS and Associates, 2017). In 2018, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather told
Jewish Canadians his government’s voting record at the United Nations was better than all
previous ones (Housefather, 2018). Similarly, in 2018 Seligman argued Trudeau’s policy
toward the MEPP had much more in common with Harper than Chrétien (p. 91). A 2020 EKOS
poll found three-quarters of Canadians thought Canada should oppose Israeli annexation of
Palestinian territory (CJPME & EKOS Research Associates, 2020). It also found 84 percent of
Canadians think the ICC should investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israeli officials,
with 71 percent saying Canada should not consider stepping in if it is opposed to the
investigation (ibid.). As Sands and Carment wrote in 2019, “Despite all the rhetoric, Justin
Trudeau’s Liberals are as hawkish as the previous Conservative government” (p. 285). This
would appear true toward the Palestinians and MEPP.
[Figure 5 Here]
Conclusion – Two Canadian Approaches
Canada has adopted two foreign policy approaches toward the Palestinians and Israeli-
Palestinian peacebuilding. This paper has labelled those Pearsonian and Harperian. The
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Pearsonian approach emphasises liberal internationalism, multilateralism and peacebuilding.
Though it recognises Canada’s place in the Western camp, it seeks Canada to build broader
MENA relationships. To accomplish these aims, Canada strives to have the appearance of a
fair-minded actor to all parties in the region. That is particularly important towards Israel and
the Palestinians, whose conflict is considered sensitive to Arab states and of great threat to
regional stability. That approach was particularly prominent from 1980 up to 2003. The
Harperian approach is premised first-and-foremost on bilateral alliances with nations the GOC
perceives to share Canada’s Western liberal and democratic values. Shared identity is
important. Proponents of this view consider Israel a lone outpost of civilisation in an otherwise
dark region. Not concerned with fair-mindedness, it is a partisan approach where Canada
clearly sides with Israel. Canada takes the approach regardless of cost to its regional image and
relationships, or broader multilateral linkages. The approach became dominant from 2006
onward.
Electoral politics appear to influence Canadian policy, particularly in a contest over some key
urban Canadian ridings. Interestingly, as Canadians became more aware of MENA affairs and
supportive of the Palestinians, the Harper and Trudeau governments adopted the most partisan
foreign policy approach. Though successive governments deferred to the United States’
regional interests, Canada’s Palestinian and MEPP policy has a logic of its own, structured
around its close relationship with Israel and electoral politics. Canadian policy even at times
contradicted United States aims. Though unclear how it factors into Canada’s Palestinian and
MEPP policymaking, Canada’s most zealous embrace of Israel came in a period where MENA
oil suppliers were clear competitors to North American energy suppliers. Each approach makes
frequent reference to perceived Canadian values, whose definitions are different for different
Canadian actors. Further research could be done on what Canadian values may mean in the
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context of MENA, as well as the factors behind adopting the two approaches now laid out in
this paper.
Irrespective of approach, Canada remained a close friend of Israel and close ally of the United
States. Pearson had himself been no pacifist, but an advocate of a fairer internationalism and a
champion of the Western camp. Likewise, even with the Pearsonian approach to the
Palestinians and MEPP, and especially the Harperian approach, Canada never valued the Arab
voice over its Western friends and allies, including Israel.
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Figure Captions
Figure 1: Author captured image from CBC News footage from 1979 June 6 (CBC News
Footage, 1979).
Figure 2: Image captured from a video in the AP Archive of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on
a state visit to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in Gaza 2000 April 10 (AP, 2015).
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Figure 3: Picture from PMO Webcast of PM Netanyahu and PM Harper in Ottawa 2012 March
(MFA, 2014).
Figure 4: Screenshot 2019 September 16th from the Conservative Party of Canada website.
Figure 5: Screenshot from the official Twitter account of former Prime Minister Stephen
Harper (2019).
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Article
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a source of much international division and fatigue. Regional and international institutions have become paralyzed by deadlock and most states have reached a sense of helplessness at resolving the conflict or influencing Israel. Although the conflict has been ongoing for decades, it continues to evolve and devastate the lives of civilians. What should Canadian policy be vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine? Is there a role for Canada in attempting to build bridges between interveners and contribute towards resolving the conflict? The United States has traditionally played a role of a biased mediator supporting Israel, a policy that Canada has tended to mirror. What are the different paths towards reaching an international consensus on how to intervene more effectively? This article examines Canadian foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and proposes a more constructive role for Canada as a consensus builder and a potential role as an unbiased and inclusive mediator.
Article
Full-text available
(Published in The Canadian Journal for Middle East Studies) Countless Canadians have for decades been trying to provide support to Palestinians living under military occupation in the occupied Palestinian territories. However, they have often faced strong resistance from pro-Israel advocates and elites in Canada, including their own government. This paper looks at the government suppression of Canadian development sector organisations running Palestinian aid projects 2001 to 2012, including from the perspective of the people running them. Based on document analysis, policy analysis and original semi-structured interviews with coordinators running aid projects, it describes how their work was almost universally undermined by the Canadian government. Tactics uncovered include appointing ardent pro-Israel advocates to an organisation's management, defunding specific projects, defunding entire organisations, launching questionable audits, spurious allegations of terrorism and the forced closure of organisations. This oppression was particularly overt under the Harper Conservative government, but had a basis in earlier Liberal governments. This interference provides an understanding for the fear that exists surrounding Palestinian aid work in Canada and the process by which Canadian aid to Palestinians is rendered ineffective. The paper further argues that while these tactics were likely first honed against Palestinian solidarity work, they were then used against other progressive groups, undermining Canadian civil society and democracy.
Article
Full-text available
Canada’s policies in the Middle East receive large amounts of media attention, but there is surprisingly little scholarly work about them. Of the few studies on the topic, moreover, most focus on analyzing past or current policies. This is certainly useful, but there is virtually no academic work focused on prescription. There is, as such, a need for theoretically informed studies laying out the rationale for a sound Canadian policy framework for the region. In this context, this paper proposes to look at Canada’s Middle East policies from a realist perspective. What are Canada’s interests? How should these translate into policy? The goal here is not to make specific prescriptions regarding each conflict or bilateral relation, but rather to propose a comprehensive framework to guide Ottawa’s broad approach to the Middle East.
Article
Full-text available
Taking Palestine as the focus of inquiry, and drawing on our experiences as co-directors of Karamah, a judicial education initiative focused on dignity, we reflect on the attributes of colonisation and the possibilities of decolonisation in Palestine through development aid. We conclude that decolonisation is possible even within development aid frameworks. We envision the current colonial condition in Palestine as a multi-faceted, complex and dynamic mesh that tightens and expands its control over the coveted colonial subject but that also contains holes that offer opportunities for resistance or refusal. We turn to Karamah to illustrate how some judges have insisted on a professional identity that merges the concepts of human dignity and self-determination and ultimately rejects the colonial condition inherent in both occupation and development aid. We conclude that in this process of professional identity (re)formation, members of the Palestinian judiciary have helped reveal the demands of decolonisation by demonstrating their commitment to realising human dignity through institutional power, and bringing occupation back into international development discourse.
Article
Security governance practices are contingent on the imagination of future threats. The “war on terror” has produced a very narrow imagination of threats, almost singularly focused on suspect communities that are Arab, Muslim, or perceived to be Middle Eastern. Discussing how immigration practices in Canada have been influenced by counter-terrorism trends, we argue that “terror identities” are mutable and highly racialised imaginaries that cast indelible marks of suspicion on subjects who are deemed as security threats. Examining the case of a journalist deemed inadmissible to Canada because of her “membership” in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), we argue that terror identities impose authoritative control over the status and lived experiences of individuals who are cast through these racialised labelling practices. Focussing on the shifting characterisation of the PLO by Canadian officials as both political interlocutor and terrorist organisation, our purpose is to highlight how racialised imaginations of terror identities enact punitive and discriminatory practices.
Chapter
In this concluding chapter we draw on the evidence from the previous chapters to evaluate the future of the Canada–US relationship. Chapters in this volume show shared institutions provide a platform for cooperation among public service professionals in both countries, occasionally including state and provincial officials. The shared institutions of the Canada–US relationship vary in the degree to which they are formalized. Some are treaty-based institutions with shared facilities, permanent personnel, and budgets; NORAD and the International Joint Commission are good examples of this. Less formal institutions include the NAFTA (now USMCA). Collectively they constitute interactions between the Canadian and US governments on a range of issues. In doing so, they provide an early diagnostic review of the health of shared institutions and the direction of the bilateral relationship. For many of the policy areas addressed, the authors find a trend toward sovereign action rather than management within shared institutions. And to some extent shared institutions are being called into question. The catalyst for change in each case is traced to the election of Donald Trump, but evidence too that in certain cases the origin of policy differences rests with changing public attitudes and priorities that leaders reflect.
Article
Scholars of Canadian politics have noted that the Prime Minister plays a dominant role in shaping domestic and foreign policy. This article examines the role of the Prime Minister in shaping Canadian foreign policy toward Israel since 1993 and shows the central role that the Prime Minister has played on this issue. It specifically argues that Stephen Harper produced a noticeable pro-Israel shift in Canada’s policy and moved Canada away from the multilateralist approach pursued by Jean Chrétien and, to a lesser extent, Paul Martin. But this article also argues that Justin Trudeau has so far embraced a policy that largely reinforces the approach of Harper rather than rejecting it. Thus, one practical implication of the dominant role of the Prime Minister in shaping Canada’s policy toward Israel is that Canada has become more one-sided in its support of Israel in the past two decades.