CUPE, the largest union in Canada, has rejected a BDS resolution

CUPE national convention, 2021

It’s a welcome change on Canada’s labour scene: The country’s largest union has voted against a resolution calling for support of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Delegates to the national convention of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on Nov. 26 voted against the motion by a margin of 68 percent opposed and 32 percent in favour.

The resolution, submitted by CUPE Metro Vancouver District Council and locals in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba called on the union to:

“Support the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and their demands to end Israel’s military occupation and colonization; grant Palestinian refugees their UN-stipulated right to return to their home and properties; recognize full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and work with unions and civil society to demand the Canadian government exert pressure on Israel to stop violating international law, end building and expanding settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians; and support the BDS campaign until Israel abides by international law and ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.”

The motion was debated for about 10 minutes before a vote was called, CUPE spokesperson Hugh Pouliot told The CJN.

Reasons provided for the resolution were:

  •  “Targeted Israeli bombing and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza killed more than 200 and left thousands more wounded and homeless in May 2021; and
  • Palestinian people and workers are subject to policies of exploitation, arbitrary imprisonment, land theft, ethnic cleansing, and daily violence; and
  • Palestinian unions have asked us to support BDS; and
  • The Israeli occupation is an obstacle to peace, and violates international law including Article 49 on the Fourth Geneva Convention; and
  • Key Israeli and international human rights organizations such as B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch declared Israel an apartheid state.”

CUPE represents about 700,000 workers across the country.

According to B’nai Brith Canada, the “International Solidarity Committees” of CUPE Ontario and CUPE BC—the largest and third-largest CUPE sections—officially endorsed the BDS resolution and held a webinar promoting it on the sidelines of the convention.

CUPE Ontario endorsed BDS in 2006.

In any event, B’nai Brith welcomed the resolution’s defeat.

“CUPE members should be praised for standing up to the lies and intimidation of the BDS movement,” Michael Mostyn, CEO of the organization, said in a media release. “The passage of this motion would have inflicted great harm not only on Jewish and Israeli members of CUPE, but on all workers who benefit from trade between Canada and Israel.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs tweeted its approval, saying BDS is “hateful and divisive. CUPE members understand this…”

In June, the Canadian Labour Congress, the central labour body to which most Canadian labour unions are affiliated, passed an emergency resolution calling for a boycott of products made in Jewish Israeli settlements and to halt Canadian arms sales to Israel, among other measures targeting the Jewish state.

Jewish advocacy groups accused the CLC of using underhanded methods to push the resolution through. They said it was adopted by the Congress’s “Canada Council,” a sub-group comprised of CLC executives, after delegates to the national convention failed to endorse either of the two anti-Israel resolutions.