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Canada won’t shift foreign policy, Joly says as NDP calls for Palestine recognition

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Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canada will not change its foreign policy based on a push from the NDP to “officially recognize the state of Palestine.”

Joly defended her government’s position on the Israel-Hamas war Monday as MPs in the House of Commons debated a New Democrat motion calling on the Liberals to recognize Palestinian statehood.

She says the government believes a hostage deal must be reached and a humanitarian ceasefire established, and that aid be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip more freely.

Joly says “there are issues” with the NDP’s motion, and that Canada “can’t change foreign policy based on an opposition motion.”

Members of Parliament are set to vote on the motion later Monday.

The ongoing war has caused a divide within the Liberal caucus, members of which discussed the motion during a morning call ahead of the debate.

Heather McPherson, the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, said ahead of the vote that “now is the time to recognize Palestine.”

She detailed the unfolding humanitarian crisis amid the Israel-Hamas war, adding that the thousands of Palestinian children who aid groups warn are starving “are not Hamas.”

“The choice to refuse aid to these children is political,” McPherson said.

Outspoken Liberal MP Salma Zahid, who represents an east Toronto riding, says she intends to vote in favour of the motion.

But Anthony Housefather, a Liberal from Montreal, said on social media that the motion calls for a list of measures that are “hostile to Israel.”

Housefather said over the weekend that the motion fails to include a demand that Hamas surrender and no longer rule Gaza.

“Changing foreign policy to reward a terrorist attack. Not smart,” he posted on X.

The non-binding motion also calls on the government to demand an immediate ceasefire and halt the trade of military goods with Israel.

The Bloc Québécois told the House of Commons on Monday that its MPs intend to support it.

Muslim groups spoke in support of the motion at a news conference Monday on Parliament Hill.

“When our government’s policy is in support of a two-state solution, then we should vote for those motions that align with it,” said Ahmad Al-Qadi of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Islamic Relief Canada representative Miranda Gallo said it was a matter of upholding the values of international law and human dignity.

“This motion should not be treated as a partisan issue or as a matter of politics, but of principle, and universal values,” she said.

Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Iddo Moed, said MPs should reject the motion.

“The one-sided recognition of a Palestinian state rewards Hamas — a listed terrorist organization by the government of Canada — for its sadistic attack on Oct. 7 which was perpetrated with the intention of annihilating the state of Israel,” Moed said in a statement.

Trudeau has repeatedly said that Canada advocates for a two-state solution, meaning that Israel would exist alongside a Palestinian country after its borders are negotiated.

Canada’s policy to support the creation of a “sovereign, independent, viable, democratic and territorially contiguous” state has remained unchanged since the war began.

The government has not spoken to whether Canada should officially recognize Palestine as a country outside of a negotiated settlement, but some allies are considering it.

In late January, the United Kingdom said it was looking into unilateral recognition of Palestine, with Foreign Secretary David Cameron saying it would preserve momentum toward a two-state solution and a peaceful goal for Palestinians to work toward.

United States President Joe Biden’s administration made similar comments in February, amid concern that the Israeli government was moving to block the viability of an eventual Palestinian state.

The war began when Hamas stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7 and killed 1,200 people, taking another 240 hostage.

Authorities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip say Israel’s military offensive in the densely populated area has killed at least 31,700 Palestinians.

The motion being debated Monday takes note of the dramatic humanitarian crisis that has ensued.

The Liberals and the NDP, which have been in a supply-and-confidence agreement since March 2022, have engaged in talks over the text of the motion.

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