Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party marked 100 days in power. It has been a busy time for the new government, filled with major policy decisions and more than a few reminders that the Trudeau Liberals do not intend to conduct business like the Harper Conservatives who preceded them. That reality is being felt acutely in the Jewish community, where reaction to the new government has been decidedly mixed. Consider some of the early Liberal decisions that have been particularly felt among Canadian Jewry:
• Syrian refugees: The Jewish community has been at the forefront of the effort to bring refugees from war-torn Syria. At the same time, many Jewish Canadians are concerned about potential security threats posed by refugees and have argued that Canada would be better off welcoming non-Muslim refugees, like the Yazidis, instead. With nearly 10,000 refugees still to arrive in Canada under the Liberal plan, it will be some time before we can determine which side is right.
• The United Nations: Early in its mandate, the Liberal government voted against a set of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. More recently, there have been indications that Canada is vying for a seat on the Security Council, which routinely bashes Israel while ignoring serial human rights abusers and warmongers. If its early voting pattern is any indication, the Liberals might be able to act as a voice of reason at the UN. But if this government reverts to the earlier Liberal practice of abstaining at the Security Council, it will only embolden the Israel haters.
• Palestinian aid: In 2013, the Harper Conservatives cancelled Canada’s aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Now, the Liberals are considering restoring that funding. UNRWA’s tainted history – including harbouring terrorist infrastructure and employing people with a decidedly, and public, anti-Israel bias – should cause the government to seriously consider whether re-funding UNRWA is the best way to help the Palestinians, and the prospects for peace.
• BDS: As reported by The CJN, the Liberals are supporting a Conservative resolution denouncing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The resolution calls on the government “to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement.” Trudeau has been firm in his anti-BDS stance for some time, so whether or not the Conservatives backed the Liberals into a corner on this resolution, as some have suggested, this is clearly a win for Canadian Jews, and the State of Israel.
During the election campaign, Trudeau was adamant that Canada’s policy vis-a-vis Israel would remain unchanged under a Liberal government. Since the election, though, others in his government, including Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, have proven that there has nonetheless been a shift in tone. Within the Jewish community, some have argued that these two realities are not mutually exclusive – that friends can be critical of each other from time to time – while others pine for the days when Canadian Jews and Israel could count on Canada to have its back at all times. After 100 days, it’s clear things have changed. What remains unclear is to what extent.