[13 November, 2005]
"Respect, diversity and pluralism are values that have profound significance in Canada and the guarantee of the equality of all Canadian before the law, and in our society, far beyond the law, within our mores, is enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That being said, although our social fabric is uncommonly strong, we recognize that we have to be vigilant to foster and protect mutual respect as an unalterable norm.
In recent years, all of us have been alarmed with the number of anti-Semitic outbursts and outbreaks in our cemeteries, in our synagogues, in our schools. Let me just tell you that when a synagogue, a school, or a cemetery is attacked in Canada that is an attack on every single one of us.
And I can categorically say that the response of leaders and individuals in every community in this country has demonstrated that Canada will not condone such acts, nor will we allow them to divide us.
And as Prime Minister I am proud to say that the vitality of Jewish life in Canada is reflected in our relationship with Israel. Our countries are linked by ties of family and friendship and fostered in schools and summer camps. And through programs of scholarship and student exchange that encourage academic and cultural dialogue through the oceans, ties further strengthened by investment and trade.
For this reason, we are please to note that increasingly the global community is coming to recognize, each in its own way, what we have understood in Canada for some time now – that Israel’s values are Canada’s values – shared values of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights.
And these same values are reflected in Israel’s understanding of the obligations nations have to one another. Canada has for many years have supported Israel’s rightful place in the international community, including at the United Nations, and we will continue to press for the kinds of reforms that will eliminate the politicization of the United Nations and its agencies, and in particular the annual, ritual of politicized, anti-Israel resolutions.
Indeed, in many ways, I feel UN’s historic resolution on Holocaust Remembrance, which in fact condemns all forms of religious intolerance is important for that body as it is for the Jewish community. It was the first resolution initiated by Israel that was ever been passed by the General Assembly and it did so unanimously with 104 cosponsors, including Canada.
Despite all the difficulties in the Middle East, Canada remains optimistic. Prime Minister Sharon’s courageous decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank has captured the world’s imagination. It has created a tremendous opportunity to move the Peace Process forward and has renewed hope in the possibility of a comprehensive peace settlement.
The G8 Summit in Glen Eagles, all the leaders joined with me in welcoming his determination. But we have also recognized that this is only the first step in a long and difficult journey, which will still require a huge amount of political will and courage on both sides. That’s why, on the other hand, the election of Mahmoud Abbas has brought such hope. Canada and the international community have a stake in his success. And we have to do everything in our power to support Israel and the Palestinians as they begin to address the central issues only they can resolve. As friends of the Peace Process, I believe that Canada has a special role to play. We are close to both sides; we are unafraid to speak frankly with either.
As you know, Canada is a strong supporter of Israel. We are also a strong supporter of the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas. That is why we are investing in the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to govern effectively. And in consultation with the international community and Israel, we are helping to build the strength of their coastal defenses, for example, provide support for their upcoming elections, to help develop the Palestinian economy and help relieve the plight of refugees.
We know that each side takes its responsibilities very seriously, as do we. We also recognize that peace can be fostered. By bringing the two sides together with their neighbors in common commitment to the rule of law and good governance.
And we are especially optimistic about the Middle East Four – an annual meeting of Justice Ministers from the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and Jordan. This is an initiative of Irwin Cotler’s, and it is he who is the chair of the inaugural meeting in Ottawa this December. We hope this forum, which is tremendously imaginative and I think is the kind of thing, in terms of the building of the infrastructure of understanding that is so required – we hope this forum and its working groups will help foster regional stability by improving jurisprudence within and amongst the parties and through the application of the international law to the challenges that they may face together.
For some, Canada can be counted on our desire for peace and our collective desire to see two states living side by side in security. Let me assure you that we will not tolerate threats to this peace. Just as we are vigilant within our nations, among them we must stand united against anti-Semitism in all its forms. When you attack the State of Israel, you attack, what is for so many, the soul of the Jewish people.
For this reason we spoke out immediately, and I do so again here in this room, as I did in the Parliament of Canada, against the reprehensible posturing of the President of Iran. Canada will not stand for such hateful speech, or its implications. Let me be very clear, this threat to Israel’s existence, this call for genocide, coupled with Iran’s obvious nuclear ambitions is a matter that the world cannot ignore. And Iran must know, in no uncertain terms, that the free nations of the world will not tolerate its intransigence.
It is a poignant time to consider thoughts like this, again with this week’s bombings in Amman, the scourge of terrorism has visited the Middle East, we stand united in the fight against it. As we did in the great wars, that led two days ago in Canada to our Remembrance Day, and in the United States, to your Veterans Day.
And finally, if I might, today, and every day since November the 4th, Israel and the world have honored the memory of Yitzhak Rabin. No friend of Israel, nor of the peace we all hope to achieve in the Middle East, will ever forget the day of his assassination ten years ago.
I’ve asked the former Prime Minister John Turner to attend tomorrow’s memorial in person, to represent Canada to Prime Minister Sharon and the people of Israel. Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was a devastating event, it was a terrifying reminder that our common aspiration to see peace by diplomacy flourish in the Middle East has more than enough enemies. But as he demonstrated so tirelessly in the final years of his life, the cause of peace has many allies. The Jewish community around the world can count Canada among them.
We draw strength from Israel’s strength and we draw hope from Israel’s values.