While a New Democratic Party (NDP) government would maintain Canada’s strong friendship and support for Israel, government-to-government relations, when necessary, would be more nuanced than they’ve been under the current Conservative government, said Paul Dewar, the incumbent MP running for re-election in Ottawa Centre, at a roundtable discussion with Jewish Federation of Ottawa representatives on September 3.
Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critic, was joined at the discussion, organized by the Federation’s Communications and Community Relations Committee, by fellow NDP candidates George Brown (Ottawa South), Sean Devine (Nepean), Kc Larocque (Carleton), Marlene Rivier (Ottawa West–Nepean), Emilie Taman (Ottawa–Vanier) and Nancy Tremblay (Orléans).
Dewar differentiated friendship between countries from unconditional support for the policies of a government or particular political leaders.
“Friends, sometimes, should be able to criticize friends,” said Dewar, citing statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the end of Israel’s election campaign this year about Arab voters and distancing himself from a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians as examples of what an NDP government would object to.
An NDP government, Dewar said, would be “constructively critical,” when necessary, but would certainly maintain and expand Canada’s strong diplomatic and trade relationships with Israel.
The NDP, he added, supports Israel’s right to defend itself from regional threats – including terrorist attacks.
Dewar said the NDP supports the nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 nations. Canadian sanctions meant to cripple Iran’s nuclear program, he said, should be lifted in concert with our allies, when it is verified that Iran is complying with the deal.
However, Dewar also said that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and Canada should also work with our allies to curtail such activity.
Asked about the role of ethnic communities and their agencies in the planning, funding and delivery of federal social services, Rivier cited the work of such agencies as Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, and said an NDP government “would support and encourage” the participation of communities and agencies.
Dewar added that an NDP government would work much more closely with “local voices,” as well as with provinces and municipalities.
“Give the tools to the people who deal with the problems,” he said, “and take advantage of community organizations.”
Asked whether the Federal Security Infrastructure Program to protect at-risk communities from hate-motivated crimes would be expanded under an NDP government, Dewar expressed support for the program and said an evaluation to look at the program’s effects was needed. He foresaw the possibility of an expanded, “more integrated and more holistic” program.
Taman, a federal prosecutor who left her job to run as a candidate in the October 19 election when she was denied leave to do so, added there are tools within the criminal code that can and should be used in prosecuting hate-crimes.
Dewar said the NDP was already committed to implementing several recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that studied the effects of Aboriginal residential schools and will look at others. Canada, he said, “needs to build a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations and move to reconciliation.”
Dewar also said time is running out to help Holocaust survivors still in need of restitution and said Canada must do whatever it can on the diplomatic front and in supporting public education on the Holocaust.