The Bloc Québécois (BQ) tabled a motion in the House of Commons demanding that Canada recognize Palestine as an independent state.
The motion was tabled on May 29 by BQ member Mario Beaulieu on behalf of the separatist party’s leader Martine Ouellet. Elected leader in March, the former Parti Québécois member continues to sit as an independent MNA in Quebec’s National Assembly.
“In order to assure the peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis, we ask that the government officially recognize Palestine as an independent state, in the name of the inalienable right of people’s self-determination,” the motion reads.
Ouellet argued that 136 of the 193 United Nations members now recognize Palestinian statehood, among the most recent being Portugal, Iceland and Sweden.
The Palestinians’ lack of political and economic sovereignty is an “injustice” and “a major obstacle to the peace process, as well as a violation of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people,” the BQ contends.
Beaulieu criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for continuing the same policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as former prime minister Stephen Harper.
The expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza are creating “a fertile ground for terrorism,” he said.
The BQ chose May 29 to take the action because of its proximity to the 50th anniversary of what they term “the occupation” of the Palestinian territories.
The BQ holds 10 seats in the House of Commons.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responded during question period that Canada recognizes the right of the Palestinians to self-determination within the context of a peace process anchored in a two-state solution.
“That includes the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders and without terrorism, as well as the creation of a sovereign and reliable Palestinian state,” she said.
Canada, she added, “urges all parties to refrain from taking unilateral measures that…put in peril the perspective of a two-state solution.”
The provincial party Québec Solidaire endorsed the BQ motion.
Mercier MNA Amir Khadir said Quebec must also put pressure on the federal government to recognize a Palestinian state.
“After his trip in recent days to Israel, [Premier] Philippe Couillard has the moral duty to follow up and put pressure in the same direction,” said Khadir, the party’s immediate past co-spokesperson.
In seeking to expand commercial ties with Israel, Khadir said, Quebec has an obligation “not to close its eyes to the daily violations of the rights of Palestinians and to sensitize the Israeli authorities.”
Richard Marceau, a former BQ member and now general counsel and senior government adviser to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), called it a “sudden change of policy” for the party.
“The BQ has long been in favour of a negotiated two-state solution…To call for recognition of a Palestinian state is moot; Israelis have long supported Palestinian statehood in the context of a peace agreement. Recognizing a Palestinian state without the requisite negotiations will not bring peace.”
Marceau added that the BQ is now led by “a small group of radicals, including Mario Beaulieu and new leader Martine Ouellette. Already marginal at 10 seats, the BQ is further marginalizing itself with this policy.”
- Story was modified from its original form to include quote from Richard Marceau