Newly released documents reinforce Canada’s staunch support for Israel.
Papers cited in a June 19 Canadian Press story quote Defence Minister Peter MacKay as telling Israel’s then-top military commander, Maj.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, that “a threat to Israel is a threat to Canada.”
MacKay’s assurances, unearthed by a freedom of information request by a Queen’s University researcher, came during a 2011 visit to Israel, where the minister also met with top government leaders.
His statement came a year after Canada’s then-junior foreign affairs minister, Peter Kent, told a Toronto publication that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada.”
Last February, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada is Israel’s staunchest ally in the world, surpassing even the United States in its support.
On several occasions, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has voiced the country’s unswerving support for the Jewish state.
Canada’s military and industrial relationship with Israel has grown enormously. The two countries are negotiating or have signed a series of defence-based agreements over the past few years, details of which have been withheld.
But Paul Dewar, foreign affairs critic for the opposition New Democratic Party, said the Conservatives’ one-sided approach to the Middle East will ultimately damage relations with the United States.
“It’s fine to say we are friends of Israel and we support Israel. Sign me up, absolutely,” said Dewar. “But Canada’s role in the world is to be able to talk to people the Americans can’t talk to and to go to places where the U.S. can’t.”
Comments such as MacKay’s “have consequences,” Dewar said.
MacKay’s spokesperson, Jay Paxton, said that the minister “was making a statement of political solidarity with the Israelis and reminding our friends there that they are not facing global security threats alone.”
He added that “Canada and Israel share the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Our government has been clear over the past six years that Israel has a right to exist and we respect its ability to defend itself.”
With files from Andy Levy-Azjenkopf