Canada reinforces 'no tolerance' policy of boycotts against Israel

Harper government denies report of hate crime legislation to pursue boycotters; Ottawa debate comes as US Congress seeks to combat boycotts of Israel through trade legislation.

Boycott Israel sign (photo credit: REUTERS)
Boycott Israel sign
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is denying reports that it will cite hate crime legislation in its efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Canada’s Public Safety ministry has outlined a policy of “zero tolerance” for the BDS campaign.
In an article published the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, one reporter called the move “a remarkably aggressive tactic” if carried out, and “another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The article was not labeled an opinion piece, but was cast by CBC correspondent Neil Macdonald as a news story after receiving a reply to an inquiry of his on the zero tolerance policy from Public Safety Canada. The reply cited Canada’s existing hate crime laws in its efforts to combat BDS.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s office denounced Macdonald’s story as “inaccurate and ridiculous,” according to JTA, adding, “These laws have been on the books for many years and have not changed. We won’t dignify this bizarre conspiracy theory with further comment.”
Several European governments have endorsed aspects of the boycott movement, supporting the labeling of products from “Israeli-occupied territories.” Harper has called the campaign “the new face of anti-Semitism,” vowing to combat the effort, as did Canada’s then-foreign minister John Baird in January.
The debate in Ottawa comes as members of the US Congress, including a unanimous Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, seek to tie anti-BDS provisions to any transatlantic trade deal signed by US President Barack Obama and the European Union.
Those provisions would require EU nations “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated non-tariff barriers on Israeli goods, services or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel,” according to the proposed amendment. A definition appended to the amendment notes that the provisions refer to both products from Israel as well as those originating from Israeli- controlled territories.