NDP heading back to Ottawa with questions for Prime Minister Trudeau on ‘why he’s not standing up for international law’ in Gaza
'If Canada truly believes in international law, we call it out every time it's broken. It doesn't matter the context,' says NDP MP Heather McPherson.
The Hill Times
NEWS | BY CHELSEA NASH | October 15, 2023
HAMILTON—NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson says her No. 1 priority coming out of the party’s policy convention this weekend when she gets back to Ottawa will be to demand answers from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on “why he’s not standing up for international law” in the region.
McPherson (Edmonton–Strathcona, Alta.) said she’ll be putting questions on the issue to Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) in the first Question Period back on Oct. 16.
“I’m going to ask them why they haven’t fought for a ceasefire. I’m going to ask them why they haven’t treated the people in Gaza, the Palestinian population, the same as they’ve treated … the care that they provided for Israelis,” she told The Hill Times at the convention Sunday morning.
She said the Israeli community “requires and deserves” that support, but that Palestinians need it, too.
“There needs to be an equal response,” she said. “I’m going to ask why he’s not standing up for international law. You know, if Canada truly believes in international law, we call it out every time it’s broken. It doesn’t matter the context. So I’m going to be asking him why he judges different conflicts differently,” she said.
On Oct. 14, the NDP passed an emergency resolution on Israel-Palestine which stipulates the party “call for an end to Israel’s total siege of Gaza which is prohibited under International Law.” It also demanded that New Democrats push the government to advocate for the release of all hostages in the conflict; demand a ceasefire and the dispatch of humanitarian assistance for Gazans; support international investigations of war crimes; condemn all acts of antisemitism and anti-Palestinian hate; and focus on peace.
Earlier in the day, the convention was disrupted by a small group of pro-Palestine protesters who were able to get into the venue in downtown Hamilton, Ont. The protesters were able to get into the stairwell of the Hamilton Convention Centre before being held back by building security and, shortly after, multiple Hamilton police officers.
A handful of convention delegates were in the hallway, and, according to the party’s national director Anne McGrath, were participating with the protesters, shouting at people and being generally disruptive. Their credentials for the convention were revoked as a result, and they were no longer permitted to speak on any matters or vote.
“We have a harassment policy. We have been very clear all the way along that this is a place for discussion and debate. But it has to be respectful. And that shouting at people and disrupting meetings is not respectful. And there were people who felt unsafe with what was going on. And they were asked to stop and they did not stop. And they were told that if they did not stop, they would lose their credentials,” McGrath told The Hill Times on Sunday morning.
Barry Weisleder, who is chairperson of the NDP Socialist Caucus—an unsanctioned caucus of NDP members who wish to see the party move further to the left—was among those kicked out.
He said that during party leader Jagmeet Singh’s (Burnaby South, B.C.) Oct. 14 speech, he went into the hallway to go to the bathroom when he saw a group of young people in the stairwell trying to get to the third floor where the main ballroom is located.
On Sunday morning, Weisleder and another member of the socialist caucus who also had her credentials removed but did not wish to be interviewed, were outside the convention centre with a table selling pamphlets and buttons and trying to speak to delegates as they entered the convention centre, where he spoke to The Hill Times.
“Two or three of them broke through security lines, and then they stood in the middle of the corridor, not obstructing anybody, chanting ‘Free, Free Palestine.’ I’m observing this and members of the socialist caucus were there. And we do support the Palestinian people, and so we were chanting along with them and applauding,” Weisleder said.
“No one was obstructed, there was no harassment,” he said.
After the protests on Saturday, and before a panel on Canadian foreign policy featuring McPherson and NDP MPs Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) and Peter Julian (New Westminster–Burnaby, B.C.), multiple members of the socialist caucus including Weisleder, Julius Arscott, and Shiam Abdelaal began yelling on the convention floor in support of Palestine. The microphones on the floor were turned off, and they were repeatedly asked to stop yelling, but continued.
McPherson had enough: “We are here to talk about foreign affairs issues and Canada’s role in the world. And when we have delegates and we have individuals who have been asked to return their delegate status, interfering with us being able to speak about the very issues that everyone in this room wants to talk about, they are silencing our ability to speak about foreign affairs issues,” she told the room, receiving an endorsement of applause from the audience.
In a later interview with The Hill Times, McPherson said she was “angry.”
“I was angry because the very small number of folks that were causing the disruption within the convention were actually stopping us from getting to the important work of discussing the issue in Israel and Palestine. They were stopping us from doing the very thing they wanted us to do,” she said.
Asked if she was concerned about a faction of her party feeling dissatisfied with the NDP’s approach to the conflict so far, she said she’s “not taking a lot of stock” from a small group of protesters who did not even listen to what the party had to say before they began disrupting the proceedings.
Israel-Palestine issue ‘clouding over the convention,’ says one Jewish delegate
Sam Hersh, a Jewish NDP delegate from Ottawa who is affiliated with the organization Independent Jewish Voices Canada, told The Hill Times it’s been hard to focus on the convention while the conflict in Gaza rages on.
On Oct. 15, The Globe and Mail confirmed one additional death of a Canadian in the region, bringing the total death count of Canadians to five.
“That’s been clouding over the convention the whole time,” Hersh said.
But Hersh, who supports Palestinian rights, said he was glad the party passed the emergency resolution calling for a ceasefire.
“I think the NDP is the only party that’s saying that and taking the stance, and I think that’s great,” he said.
Meanwhile, Richard Marceau, a representative from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) who attended the convention Saturday as an observer, said he did not agree with the NDP’s call for a ceasefire.
He said the NDP’s condemnation of Hamas—which was repeated throughout the convention by McPherson and by Singh multiple times—was welcome, and that he understood the need for empathy towards civilian victims on both sides. However, he said calls for a ceasefire are not what’s needed at this moment.
“One thing that is missing is the realization that as long as Hamas is in power in Gaza, these things can happen again. So calling for a ceasefire means that this can happen again,” he said.
As the convention wound down on Oct. 15, there was another protest in support of Palestine at Hamilton City Hall, and the chants of “free, free, Palestine” could be heard through the walls in the media filing room. [email protected]
The Hill Times
Click this link to read the full news story: