Supporting justice and peace in the Middle East
At the request of United Church partners, General Secretary Michael Blair has sent this letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and other members of the federal government.
RE: Canada should support South Africa’s application to the ICJ regarding Israel’s breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, and ban arms sales to Israel
Dear Prime Minister,
As Israel’s war on Gaza intensifies, I write to amplify the voices of people of The United Church of Canada and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians urging the government to take moral and decisive actions to support justice and peace.
More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in Gaza over the past three months, 70% of them women and children. The population of Gaza is at great risk of dying from disease, dehydration, famine and lack of adequate medical care; Israel intentionally denies access to drinkable water, food, fuel, and electricity. Israeli politicians have repeatedly called for extreme measures to be imposed on the people of Gaza, even promoting ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza.
Under these inhumane conditions, Canada’s decision to offer refugee status to family members of Canadians in Gaza is needed and welcome. However, this temporary refuge should not impede Palestinian refugees’ right of return to Gaza, East Jerusalem or the West Bank, or indeed, to all of historic Palestine, in accordance with international law.
Further, Canada must take every step to end complicity in war crimes and/or crimes against humanity, and violations of international human rights law, committed in Palestine and Israel. Project Ploughshares, a Canadian churches’ peace research institute that focuses on disarmament efforts and international security, released a detailed report outlining just such risks, stating,
“There is a substantial risk that the export of Canadian military goods to Israel could contribute to ongoing violations of IHL or IHRL. Therefore, Canadian officials must halt the further transfer of weapon systems to Israel to meet both its international obligations under the ATT and domestic obligations under the EIPA. As per Article 4 of the ATT, Canadian officials must also close loopholes allowing unregulated export of military goods to Israel through the United States.”*
In light of these factors, I urge Canada to:
- support South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to declare Israel in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention. Canada should support international independent legal mechanisms such as the ICJ to issue a legal opinion on this issue, and
- halt the further transfer of weapon systems to Israel to meet both its international obligations under the ATT and domestic obligations under the EIPA. As per Article 4 of the ATT, Canadian officials must also close loopholes that allow the unregulated export of military goods to Israel through the United States,” as called for by Project Ploughshares, of which The United Church of Canada is a member. Over the past decades there have been numerous opportunities for Canada to act decisively, without exception and according to its obligations under international law. I urge Canada to be courageous and respond positively to the requests in this letter.
Rev. Michael Blair
The United Church of Canada
The Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, Bill.Blair@parl.gc.ca ; Bill.Blair@forces.gc.ca
The Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie.Joly@international.gc.ca
The Hon. Rob Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rob.Oliphant@parl.gc.ca
The Hon. Michael Chong, Conservative Foreign Affairs critic, Michael.Chong@parl.gc.ca
Heather McPherson, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic, Heather.McPherson@parl.gc.ca
Stéphane Bergeron, Bloc Québécois Foreign Affairs critic, Stephane.Bergeron@parl.gc.ca
Elizabeth May, Co-Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca
Bob Rae, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in New York, Bob.Rae@international.gc.ca
Lisa Stadelbauer, Ambassador of Canada to Israel, Lisa.Stadelbauer@international.gc.ca
David Da Silva, Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority, David.DaSilva@international.gc.ca
*“Fanning the Flames: The grave risk of Canada’s arms exports to Israel,” Project PloughShares Special Report, (Waterloo, ON: December 2023), p. 4. Accessed on January 5, 2024.