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Heather Stefanson

Manitoba, unlike Ontario, fails to pass resolution condemning Israel Apartheid Week

By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

The Ontario and Manitoba legislatures have taken two different approaches regarding Israel Apartheid Week.

Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman introduced a Private Members’ resolution to the Ontario Legislature in March to  condemn Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).   Sherman’s  resolution received support from all parties and passed unanimously. It read in part, “the term Israeli Apartheid Week is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel,” passed unanimously.
Shurman declared, “Passage of this resolution…sends a clear message to Ontarians and the rest of the world that use of the term, ‘apartheid,’ in relation to the state of Israel borders on hate speech and that the events staged during Israeli Apartheid Week have no place in Ontario, particularly on its university campuses.”
According to Shurman, the resolution passed in the Ontario legislature was intended to have moral suasion, but did not prohibit the week from continuing.
In Manitoba,  in April, Progressive Conservative Member of the Legislative Assembly (M.L.A.) tried to follow Shurman’s initiative in Manitoba by having politicians of all stripes, including the NDP government support a motion condemning  Israel Apartheid Week, but she was not successful.
Stefanson   introduced  a Private Member’s Resolution on behalf of  the P.C. Caucus and Hugh McFadyen, P.C. Leader of the Opposition which called  on the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba “to urge the provincial government to denounce Israeli Apartheid Week as divisive, promoting intolerance and undermining a balanced debate of the Israeli-Palestinian question.”

According to the rules of the Manitoba Legislature, a Private Member’s Bill does not automatically come to a vote.  Accordingly, the P.C Caucus asked the Speaker of  the Legislature to grant  leave for such a vote, which would have occurred if the NDP government had agreed to such leave.

The NDP government refused to grant leave, and later ran out the clock on the resolution by “speaking it out” until 12 noon.  Despite Stefanson’s request, the government refused to extend the clock on the resolution past noon and allow it to come to a recorded vote. 

“By speaking out the resolution, the NDP killed it,” McFadyen, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review  in an interview following the event.

Jon Gerrard,  the leader  and only elected representative of  the Liberal party in Manitoba supported the resolution.

In the Legislature, Gord Mackintosh, NDP Minister of Family Services and Consumer Affairs, said that while applying the term “apartheid” to Israel was “profoundly unhelpful” and “unwelcome speech” it was speech “likely protected” by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

He rejected the notion that it is the “new function for provincial governments of the day in Canada to formally denounce and chill unwelcome speech… I am then at risk of being their next target.”

In the Legislature, Steve Ashton, NDP Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, who noted he had been to “Israel” and “Palestine” said  “ We should never, in any way, shape, or form, do anything other than encourage freedom of speech.”

In an interview McFadyen said, “If proponents [of IAW] can make a statement advocating it [IAW], then why can’t we as a House be able to make a statement condemning it… Had the resolution been voted on and passed, it would not have had binding legislative effect on a university.  . But it would have sent a powerful declaratory message about what we as a legislature think about the event.  It would have been our statement.”

In the Legislature, NDP David Chomiak, Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines, said that he did not agree to granting leave for the resolution to be voted on because he did not want to give the IAW event credibility. Chomiak said IAW in Manitoba was  “a non-event” and that by “voting on this… we give a platform for those who failed.”

When asked if there was a difference in the wording between this resolution she
put forth and the one that was passed in the Ontario Legislature, Stefanson  told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “ There are different rules about how resolutions are brought forward so it's slightly different, but the main concepts are the same….The words of  the resolution … put forth by P.C. Peter Shurman  were . "I Move that in the opinion of this house, the term ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is condemned as it serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights and the use of the word ‘Apartheid’ in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Both McFadyen and Stefanson said that the Tories and the NDP were in negotiations for to try to agree on wording for a resolution, and they were “surprised” that an agreement wasn’t reached.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.