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Hon. Gord Mackintosh (Minister of Family Services and Consumer Affairs): Mr. Speaker, it's important, through this debate, to both stand up against any manifestation of anti-Semitism and, in this particular situation, characterizing Israel as an apartheid regime. Calling Israel an apartheid regime, while likely protected under the Charter, does nothing to move toward greater understanding, peace and social justice. Applying the term "apartheid" to Israel is profoundly inflammatory and most unhelpful.

Now, as a government with a mandate for positive leadership, unlike opposition, it's our duty to search for what unites us, Mr. Speaker, as Manitobans so that we can move ahead and actively pursue causes that can lead to a secure Israel, in a peaceful region, with respect for Jews, most important, of course, among all nationalities including Muslims or Palestinians. This is, in fact, though, the record of our government.

Now the event that led to this resolution has come and gone, and few took notes. It deserves no extraordinary attention now. To that end, well, I will always support those with Middle East peace as their vision and a secure state of Israel through reconciliation amongst their borders. I refuse to now elevate the status of a marginal and most disrespectful hindrance to that vision.

As more than a footnote, Mr. Speaker, and aside from the particular issue at hand, I do question the resolution's intention to–not just a statement from the Assembly, but require the Government of Manitoba to formally denounce–that's the wording–the speech of certain Manitobans on campus or anywhere, through unspecified means–[interjection] I ask the member to allow me to speak–[interjection]

The resolution asks the government to take a formal role in 'denunciating' the speech of certain Manitobans, whether on campus or other places. That's what this resolution does, and that resolution is speaking outside, then, of the existing civil and criminal laws and the Human Rights Code of Manitoba. The wording of the resolution signals, in my view, Mr. Speaker, that Conservatives would do this as they see fit if they governed. You know the application of our civil and criminal laws are backed up by well-established processes, checks and balances to pursue safety, justice, remedies, to change behaviour.

But to create a new function for provincial governments of the day in Canada to formally denounce and chill unwelcome speech–and this is unwelcome speech, I can tell you–from time to time should be very thoroughly and carefully debated in this Chamber. I am then at risk of being their next target. Manitoban supporters of Israel are then at risk of becoming a target and we should not be a party to that. 


Mr. Hugh McFadyen (Leader of the Official Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the resolution introduced by the member for Tuxedo (Mrs. Stefanson). And I thank her for the resolution, one that is drafted carefully and with much consideration as to the implications of the passage of such a resolution in this Chamber.

And, Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the outset that I don't doubt the sincerity of members opposite. And I appreciate the fact that they have indicated similarly that they do not doubt the sincerity of members on this side of the House in terms of the issue before the House today.

But I will say, in response to both members opposite, with the greatest of respect, that we believe that they're mistaken in terms of the approach to this issue for a variety of reasons. Mr. Speaker, the state of Israel was created out of the recognition of the Jewish people's historic ties to that sacred place, as well as the recognition of the need to guarantee the security of people who, as recently as 65 years ago, were the victims of systematic tragic and horrific genocide.

Mr. Speaker, that state, through its history–the state of Israel has made an incredible contribution to our world, including to the province of Manitoba, in areas of health care, economic development, science, arts and so many other areas that have enriched the–both the Israeli state but the world as well, including our province of Manitoba.

And I know that as recently as this year, members of the government participated in exchanges to discuss the issue of water management, such a vital resource for all people, such great expertise both here in Manitoba and in the state of Israel. And I commend them for that co-operative relationship.

Mr. Speaker, I have yet to personally visit Israel, although I look forward to doing so this coming October as part of a mission, but what I do know is that this is a state that has made great contributions to our world. And one of those great contributions is its contribution to and commitment to democracy. It is a place where people are free to speak. They're free to disagree as they do on virtually a daily basis. That citizens who are not delineated based on any cultural or religious lines–if you're a state–a citizen of the state of Israel you have the right to participate in elections, to choose the leadership of the country in an open and democratic way.

So it is important–and I think there's no disagreement in this House, to be very clear, about the fact that Israel is a democratic state. There will be many who will have differences and disagreements on Israeli policy when it comes to security. The Israeli people themselves are engaged in vigorous debate, on a daily basis, on the individual policies of individual governments, at various points in time, related to security policy, and related to other issues that are pressing on the people of Israel with respect to their own security, and their own progress as a people and a nation. And that, Mr. Speaker, is indicative of a healthy vibrant democratic government and society, where people are free to disagree on approaches to security and approaches to–on approaches to settlement, and a variety of other areas that are contentious issues but are freely and openly debated.

And so we agree, in this House, Mr. Speaker, that the use of the word "apartheid" is an inflammatory, false, dishonest term designed to stir up certain emotions, designed to stir up a certain sentiment and an attitude toward Israel. And, in the end, what it's grounded in is, among its proponents, a belief that the state of Israel has no right to exist as a state. This is the agenda of the people who are using the word "apartheid," and we need to use the word because they are the ones who are using it, and we need to push back against it. And we need to expose the fallacy and the falsehood of that sort of language as it's applied to the state of Israel.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House believe differently or we disagree with members opposite, in a respectful way. We all agree that apartheid is a hateful, false, inflammatory term, and I'm pleased that we've all agreed on that point. Where we disagree is whether we, as elected members in this Chamber, should speak out within this Chamber on an issue of this nature.

And, Mr. Speaker, we believe that we should speak out for all of the reasons that history has laid before  us on such issues. We know that there is a principle of law that members opposite will know well, usually applied in the realm of contract law, called, silence is acquiescence, Mr. Speaker. But that principle can be applied, not just in the world of contracts, but also in the world of politics and public discourse.

And that, if we choose to

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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