The Comment

House of Commons on Gaza: Sorry, we were just kidding

TORONTO – So much for a serious discussion on the Opposition Day Motion “Canada’s Actions to promote peace in the Middle East”. Pardon me if I laugh…I’ll keep it to a snicker. The vote to determine “action” was to take place – as per negotiated agreement – at 7:15 PM following the debate. At 8:30 PM, the Speaker finally ruled that the vote would take place at 9:00 PM, after allowing 30 minutes for MPs to make their way to the Chambers. What happened, you ask?

This was billed as a big deal and a defining moment for those concerned about “truth, justice, human rights, peace, self-determination, protection of women, children – redressing the abuse of the faithful, the different, the weak…” and to show the world of the limitless power of the Canadian House of Commons to accomplish foreign policy “on the fly” thanks to the Siamese connection that is the Liberal-NDP coalition government.

It was not to be. Just before the Speaker began to “call in the members” for the vote, as is the practice, the Government House Leader handed the Speaker a list of amendments. The move took everyone by surprise – including a Jewish MP from Montreal’s Mount Royal who had made a big deal of being a proud Zionist. It seemed to shock the former Minister from Toronto’s Eglinton Lawrence who was equally immersed in the combat against anti-semitism. Both objected strenuously. The Bloc Quebecois pointed out that they had not received a copy in French, therefore, they were not in a position to vote.

The NDP, great paragons of “goodness, virtue and all things moral” were the movers of the original Motion. They accepted the amendments as one, thus tying the Speaker’s hands, so to speak. Suffice it to say that the “friendly” amendment(s) – that is the way amendments accepted by the original mover are treated – had the effect of negativing the substance of the themes dealt in the original Motion and the debate it had spawned, in the House and in the Media the week before.

Effectively, everyone had to pretend that nothing happened except the retelling of some of the “agreed upon ‘facts’ already in the public domain”. For example, the Minister for Global Affairs was able to confirm the number of deaths in Gaza, the percentage of women and children killed, blah, blah, blah…The final version “sanitized” the acrimony that had begun to surface – as expected. “Motherhood” statements replaced contentious ones. The amendments passed 204 -118.

The tactic was enough to win everyone over. On the final vote Liberal party MPs “folded their tents”, including Omar Algabra, former Minister and director of Palestine House, as well as MP Selma Zaid, signalling that, all the charade aside, the Motion was indeed a Government one dressed up as an NDP initiative.

Only the Conservatives, former Minister Marco Mendicino, Anthony Housefather and Ben Carr voted against the original Motion (vote 204-117).

CIJA, Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs, on the surface at least, appears to have suffered a setback in that they had lobbied heavily to have the Opposition Day Motion defeated. The CJPME, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East wanted the Motion passed, and badly. They restrained their enthusiasm with the results.

Many NDP MPs donned shawls evocative of support for a free Palestine. The Liberal-NDP coalition survived another test. The debate and the vote was never about anything else.

The search for a “solution” to the Gaza crisis and to the rise of anti-semitism now moves to a different theatre for serious consideration: the US Congress.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh with the baby in his arms during the debate in the House: normally non-elected people cannot enter the Chamber, unless they are the Speaker’s staff (screenshot from the video on the site

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