On Sunday, Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander declared that Canada will not participate in the resettlement of Palestinian refugees.
“We are not going to resettle in Canada… the hundreds of thousands who want to live in a Palestinian state because they want to go home eventually,” he declared during CTV’s Question Period.
This is an apparent contradiction to Canada’s official position in the territorial dispute between Israel and Palestine. Traditionally, Canada has welcomed the resettlement of some refugees in its own country. When asked if this still holds true, Alexander said: “With respect to Palestinian refugees, the objective we all share is for them to become citizens in a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.”
These comments were made the same day as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel. Before his departure, the Harper delegation dodged questions about the Prime Minister’s views on Canada’s long-standing stance on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.
In light of this, Alexander added, “It isn’t for Canada or other countries to use or impose their own views on these two parties that have to resolve these issues together.” He emphasized that Canada opposes unilateral action by either party and stressed that Harper’s trip to Israel reflects the “65 years of strong relations that Canada has had with a very successful democracy… that is a model in the Middle East.”
Former Canadian ambassador to Israel and Jordan, Michael Bell, stipulated that the administration’s refusal to clarify its official stance could indicate a change in Canada’s foreign policy.
“What concerns me for this visit is what is going to come out of it that is new and different other than a mutually supportive and sympathetic voicing of views?” he told CTV.
According to Bell, Harper’s position is more than support of Israel’s right to exist—it is a political alignment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mohamed El Rashidy of the Canadian Arab Federation has criticized the Canadian government’s refusal to criticize the Israeli-occupied settlements, which are widely regarded as illegitimate by the international community.
“There’s no question that Israel is an ally of Canada and will remain so. The real question is how Canada chooses to exercise that influence with Israel and its neighbors in the region.”
Click here for an article on this topic published in the National Post.