On July 5, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) led a delegation to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to discuss recent events that they found concerning – namely, Trudeau’s statement on the Israel-Gaza border clashes and Canada’s abstention from voting on a UN resolution about the violence, both of which failed to mention Hamas’ role in the conflict.
CIJA’s first action in response to Trudeau’s statement was to mobilize nearly 10,000 Canadians to email the prime minister to express their displeasure over his statement.
CIJA then followed up by meeting Trudeau in person, as they have regularly done since his election.
“CIJA has met with Prime Minister Trudeau in the past and regularly interacts with the prime minister at key public events, such as the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day in Ottawa. CIJA has also convened briefings with the prime minister for Jewish community leadership,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel in a statement.
“This enables us to have the sort of frank, serious conversations like the one that took place last week. Our goal in these meetings is to strengthen Canadian support for the Jewish communal agenda on a wide range of issues, including of course Israel, and ensure this support is sustained for the long-term.”
In general, CIJA says that the government’s positions on Israel have been “commendable.” Fogel mentioned some of those positions, including renewing and expanding the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, vocally opposing BDS, supporting Israel at the UN and treating Iran as a legitimate threat.
“All of this is welcome and significant, and anyone who cares about Israel’s future – whatever their political leanings – should give the government and prime minister credit where credit has been earned,” said Fogel.
“At the same time,” he continued, “Canada’s initial response to the recent Gaza border violence was disappointing and profoundly concerning, as was Canada’s recent decision to abstain on a UN General Assembly vote that singled out Israel for criticism and failed to mention Hamas.”
Fogel said that Trudeau’s response at the meeting was encouraging and that the prime minister demonstrated a clear understanding of the role Hamas played in the violence.
Beyond that, Trudeau “recognized not only Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorism, but Israel’s will and capacity to hold its troops to a high ethical standard – rather than be subjected to an inevitably biased international inquiry, and he committed to be more vigilant in opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the UN,” said Fogel.
“In short, this was a very positive and substantive discussion. The most important sign of progress, of course, is how this shapes Canadian policy moving forward – about which we are cautiously optimistic.”
The Prime Minister’s Office seemed to agree.
“The Prime Minister had a positive and productive meeting with members of The Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). It was an opportunity to discuss issues of concern to Jewish Canadians and the Canada-Israel bilateral relationship. Canada is a steadfast supporter of Israel, and of the peace process in the Middle East,” said Amreet Kaur, Press Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office.
Included in the delegation were Joel Reitman (vice-chair of CIJA), Jeff Rosenthal (CIJA board member), Leslie Gales (chair of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA), Karen James (chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver) and Barbara Bank (chair of CIJA Toronto).