[July 24, 2006]
Dear Friends and Parkdale-High Park Neighbours:
The news that has gripped us all of late has been coming from the Middle East. Media reports of this escalating violence are difficult to watch and the experience of living in this conflict must be horrific. The fear and chaos for those affected must be overwhelming. For relatives here in Canada and elsewhere the uncertainty and fear must dominate every waking moment.
The CBC reports as of Friday, July 21, 2006, that by the 10th day of fighting on Friday had killed at least 335 people in Lebanon and 34 people in Israel, including 19 soldiers. It has displaced an estimated half a million people.
I shared the concern of many Canadians who were appalled when Prime Minister Harper said that Israel’s response in Lebanon was ‘measured’, right before seven members of a Canadian family were killed by Israeli shelling. (See an open letter from NDP International Development Critic Alexa McDonough to Foreign Affairs Minister MacKay expressing the NDP’s outrage at the Conservative government’s response to the destruction levelled by Israel on the innocent civilians in Gaza and Lebanon: http://www.ndp.ca/page/3922)
There has been widespread frustration at the lengthy delays in evacuating Canadians from Lebanon. With the largest foreign national population in Beirut, Canada seemed to be one of the least prepared. The lack of preparation and resources created inconvenience and in some cases unnecessary suffering among people already traumatized in a war zone. Finally the evacuation effort seems to be gaining momentum, although many Canadians remain in peril, as do so many other innocent civilians caught up in this escalating tragedy.
I believe that it is up to Israel, as the much stronger military power, to step back and have said so publicly. I am pleased that our party urged Prime Minister Harper to appeal to President Bush to have the Israelis to end their attacks. However we must continue to condemn all acts of violence against innocent people, and I believe that Canada has a moral responsibility to play a meaningful role in advancing peace, through diplomatic and financial means. Military escalation will solve nothing and middle powers like Canada have an obligation to ease the tensions.
This past Saturday, I spoke at a peace rally outside the United States consulate in downtown Toronto. The protest was organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and the Canadian Peace Alliance. I emphasized that US President George Bush could stop the violence in the Middle East and has a responsibility to do so. I also called on Prime Minister Harper to be a voice for peace and to seek a diplomatic solution rather than supporting military aggression.