Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Bennett on Canada-Israel Relations

Israel’s values are Canada’s values. Shared values of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Prime Minister Paul Martin, address to the UJC, Nov 13, 2005

Our Liberal government strongly supports Israel’s right to peace and security within its borders and has taken a strong stance in condemning terrorism, anti-semitic attacks, and the incitement of hatred, whether they take place abroad – or unfortunately – here in Canada. As the Prime Minister has said, we will continue to press for the type of reforms that will eliminate the politicization of the United Nations and its Agencies.

Last year, under the leadership of Prime Minister Martin and this Liberal government, Canada announced a full review of our voting on Middle East resolutions to make sure they are clear, constructive and reflect balanced and reality-based language. As a result of this review, Canada modified its previous position on three resolutions last year and three further votes this year. The annual ritual of politicized anti-Israel resolutions at the General Assembly is being redressed.

These developments represent important progress in reversing the attempts to isolate and de-legitimize Israel within the international community and should be recognized as such, according to the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy – Political Affairs Committee.

Canada and Israel are linked by ties of family and friendship. The two countries share important values and concerns related to democracy, rule of law, education, research and development, as well as opportunities for investment and trade.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has worked with Israel and its judiciary on the drafting of a constitution. He has initiated an annual meeting of Justice Ministers of the Middle East Four – the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and Jordan – to improve jurisprudence within and amongst these countries. I am pleased that the Government of Canada has committed, in consultation with other peace partners, to establishing a Canada Centre for Peace and Democracy in the Middle East.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, enacted by the Liberals, underpins a healthy and growing trade relationship. Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government has renewed the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation funding for five more years and my colleague Jim Peterson, Minister for International Trade, is planning to take a trade mission to Israel this spring, with the objective of diversity and bolstering Canada’s trading relationship with the region. An agreement on pensions, to allow freer movement of retirees between our two countries, is now being negotiated.

You may be aware that since I was first elected I have visited Israel on six times. Speaking to people in Israel and the Jewish community here in Canada, I have heard overwhelming support for Canada’s friendship with Israel and our role in a peaceful resolution of the conflict and realization of the dream of a safe, secure and democratic Middle East.

As the former chair of the Canada-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, I have worked to educate my colleagues in Parliament on the issues facing Israel and worked closely with Uli Edelstein, Chair of the Israel Canada Group of the Knesset.

On my most recent trip in January 2005 as Minister of State for Public Health, I led a delegation of Canadians to study the Israeli systems of emergency preparedness and response to see which best practices we could bring back to Canada. Israel’s expertise in this field has sadly come as a result of the constant threat that it faces. However, Canada is better prepared as a result of what I learned working with my Israeli counterparts.

But we must never be satisfied with the status quo. I have been a strong and effective advocate for the issues of concern to Israel and the Jewish community here in St. Paul’s. In 2003, as a leading member of the Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel group, we submitted a road map to guide and further improve Canada’s relationship with Israel to the government’s Foreign Policy Review. I am pleased to say that since then, action has been taken on more than two thirds of the recommendations. There is still more work to be done and more progress to be made. But make no mistake, with the Prime Minister’s leadership and strong voices supporting Israel in his Cabinet – including myself – we are making progress. With your support, I will continue to be a strong and effective advocate for Israel and we can move forward together on enhancing and strengthening Canada’s relationship with Israel even further.