Canada’s vote on a United Nations motion that called for a ceasefire, but didn’t mention Hamas, is criticized by Jewish groups—and a few Liberal MPs

The United Nations voted on a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war on Dec. 12, 2023.

Jewish organizations had predictably harsh words after Canada voted in favour of a United Nations resolution on Dec. 12 that called for a ceasefire in the current Israel-Hamas war without any mention of Hamas.

The non-binding resolution will not affect events in the Middle East, but has left Canadian Jews with “a sense of abandonment, a sense of betrayal,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said in an interview with The CJN.

“What I know for sure, is that Jews feel less safe than they did 36 hours ago,” he added.

The resolution will empower those who “feel that the support expressed for Hamas is justified.”

“The consequence is going to be added hate in terms of volume and intensity being directed to the Jewish community in every sector, whether it’s the university campus, whether it’s the public school system, whether it’s Jewish doctors within the medical community.  There’s pretty much no place where a Jew has been safe over  the last eight weeks and I think this is just going to add fuel to the fire.”

Canada was one of 153 countries that voted in favour of the resolution which called for a ceasefire and the release of hostages. Ten countries, including the United States, opposed the resolution. An amendment which condemned Hamas was not passed.

Just a few hours previous to the UN vote, Canada, along with Australia and New Zealand had released a joint statement that supported a “sustainable ceasefire,” but cautioned it could not be “one-sided.”

“Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and lay down its arms. There is no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza,” the statement said.

The speedy change in tone from the earlier nuanced statement to the UN vote left critics furious.

“(Foreign Affairs Minister) Melanie Joly and (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau have finally caved to pressure by the usual anti-Israel suspects, in Canada and at the UN, in calling for an immediate ceasefire. The pressure everyone knew was coming. The pressure everyone suspected our government could not withstand,” Michael Levitt, CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre posted on social media.

JSpaceCanada, a progressive Jewish group which has supported calls for a ceasefire, also criticized Canada’s vote at the UN.

“We are dismayed that condemnation of Hamas was not included in the resolution,” JSpaceCanada chair Joe Roberts said in a statement. “Any call that fails to meet the terms set out in the tripartite statement issued by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier that same day is undeserving of Canada’s support.”

Canada has traditionally voted alongside Israel and the United States at the United Nations, Koffler Fogel noted, save for a few exceptions.

The support for the Dec. 12 motion reflects differing opinions among the Liberal caucus, and the pressure exerted by the pro-Palestinian community, he said.

The decision will impact the community’s relationship with the current Liberal government, Jewish organizations noted.

“This vote also sends a crystal-clear message to Canadian Jews and their allies, who overwhelmingly support Israel and its right to exist, that the government does not have their backs. This will not soon be forgotten,” Levitt said.

 The onus is on the government to rebuild the community’s confidence, Koffler Fogel said.

“Until it is able to do that, I think the community is going to feel not just a sense of abandonment… but a profound sense of disappointment that a government it has seen as its partner over many years, in a nonpartisan way, has simply abrogated its responsibilities to keep the partnership healthy and dynamic.”

A handful of Liberal MPs, including Anthony Housefather, Marco Mendicino and Ben Carr, have been vocal in their opposition to Canada’s role in the UN vote.

“The Jewish community has a right to be disappointed and concerned with this one vote,” Housefather said in an interview with The CJN.

Noting that Canada has sided with Israel more than 85 percent of the time at the United Nations, Housefather and his colleagues lobbied hard to have Hamas’ role in perpetrating terror and sexual violence recognized in the statement released by Canada earlier in the day.

“That was a decision I did not make,” he said referring to the Dec. 12 vote. “There were a lot of competing voices on that decision.”

In a media scrum outside the House of Commons on Dec. 13, the MP for Mount Royal declined to discuss his future in the Liberal party, where he said he has felt at home since he was a teenager.

Canadians need to look not only at one vote at the UN, which Housefather argued would not make Jews more unsafe, but at what MPs are doing more broadly to tackle antisemitism.

The day prior to UN vote, Housefather put a notice of motion before the Justice Committee calling for an inquiry into antisemitism on university campuses, inspired by similar hearings held in the United States last week.

Questionnaires about antisemitism have been sent to 25 Canadian universities and the responses will guide which schools will be asked to testify, he said.

While the Jewish community has “a right to be disappointed,” he said that it needs to redouble its efforts to communicate with elected officials.

“Liberals and Conservatives will each get elected in the future. You need strong allies in both parties, constantly, always. That’s why you need to work to support your strong allies,” he said. “You don’t give up because you lose one vote.”