Open Letter to the Constituents of Laurier – Sainte-Marie on the situation in Gaza

Open Letter to the Constituents of Laurier Sainte-Marie on the situation in Gaza

 

Over the past few weeks many of you have written to me with your concerns over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. As your representative in Ottawa, and as the NDP’s Critic for International Development and Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs, I want to respond personally.

 

I am horrified by the deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza. Since the conflict began – in written and verbal statements – we have called for an immediate ceasefire, better protection for civilians, the unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance within Gaza – including food, fuel and medical treatment – and for all parties to abide by international law. Our leader, Thomas Mulcair, has also called for the sustained reopening of Gaza crossing points, in keeping with UN Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). Last Friday NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar stated that the shelling by Israël Defense Forces of a United Nations shelter in Gaza housing innocent civilians fleeing the violence was horrifying and completely unacceptable.

 

I condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel but I also believe that, while Israel has the right to defend itself, this right comes with an obligation to protect civilians.  States have responsibilities under international law; Israel is no exception to this. Canada must urge Israel to take further measures to protect civilians and ensure full respect of international humanitarian law.

 

I believe that a resolution of this conflict will only come through the hard diplomatic work of the international community. Canada should be pushing for and contributing to a peaceful resolution on this conflict, including an end to illegal settlements, which are a serious obstacle to a just and lasting peace. Unfortunately, the Conservatives one-sided and unbalanced approach on this issue and their position prevent us to be able to play a constructive role and is nothing short of an embarrassment.

 

In the absence of any leadership from the Canadian government, I want to be clear that New Democrats are doing their best to make your voice heard. We are committed to working with partners for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine, within a framework of respect for international law. Our Foreign Affairs Critic, Paul Dewar, has been regularly engaging Palestinian and Israeli representatives, well before this conflict started, as well as with members of the civil society.

 

The NDP is the only party looking to build bridges between Canada's diverse communities, and to build the common understandings necessary for peace. For example, I would like to share with you the following comments on the NDP’s policy on the situation pertaining to Israeli-Palestinian crisis:

 

"I particularly value your insights and principled position pertaining to Palestinian rights and our pursuit of a just peace. I remain confident of your continued support and constructive efforts in helping us achieve our freedom, self-determination, and global recognition." – Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization

 

 

“We are writing this letter in recognition of your just and fair policy pertaining to the Israeli Palestinian crisis. Your party has placed equal value on both Israeli and Palestinian lives and has bravely stood for ending the bloodshed, upholding human rights and abiding by international law. We the undersigned organizations applaud your position. Canada's foreign policy must align with international law and reflect the equal value of Israeli and Palestinian life. With NDP leadership and influence we look forward to once again resuming this vital role globally.”

– From a letter signed by the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI), Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need (CSRDN), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and Muslim Medical Association of Canada (MMAC)

 

While the Conservative government’s approach to the situation prevents Canada from playing a constructive role in establishing a lasting peace in the region, we should at least contribute more to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. This is why we have called repeatedly on Canada to respond to UNWRA’s emergency appeal for contributions to help Palestinian refugees. This is also why we are working with Dr. Izzedin Abuelaish in his call to bring injured children to Canadian hospitals for treatment.

 

Bringing injured children to Canada is only a small part of what we must do. What we are seeing in Gaza is a generation of children who have only known war and suffering. Much like in Syria and other war zones, we are losing a generation of children to trauma. In the coming months, Canada must focus on targeted humanitarian and development assistance for the children of Gaza – educational, social, and trauma-healing support - like we provide in other crises.

 

 Below please find links to our most recent statements: 

 

Statement by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair, on the situation in the Middle East

 

NDP statement on the situation in the Middle East

 

NDP Press Release: Canada must support UN humanitarian efforts in Gaza

 

The NDP position on the Middle East has been consistent for years: This includes recognition of the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in viable, independent states with negotiated and agreed-upon borders.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

 

Sincerely,

Hélène Laverdière

MP for Laurier – Sainte-Marie

Official Opposition Critic for International Development and Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs