Canadian news outlet CBC reported that the government had signaled its willingness to use hate crime laws against supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which targets Israel. The government has flatly denied the claim.
According to the report by CBC journalist Neil Macdonald, that was the position expressed in an email exchange with Public Safety Department spokesperson Josée Sirois. Macdonald had contacted the department for clarification of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney’s statement in a speech to the UN in January that Canada had a “zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
Sirois forwarded Macdonald’s inquiry to the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development ministry, but Macdonald pushed Sirois for a comment. She responded by stating that Canada “has one of the most comprehensive sets of laws against hate crime anywhere in the world,” citing the criminal code at length. From this, Macdonald inferred that the government intended to bring BDS supporters up on charges of hate crimes.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government responded with a swift denial. “This story is inaccurate and ridiculous,” the federal public safety minister’s office said in a statement. “These laws have been on the books for many years and have not changed. We won’t dignify this bizarre conspiracy theory with further comment.”
The laws in question are those which include discrimination based on national origin as a potential hate crime. Attorney Gerald D. Chipeur told Algemeiner that activists could be charged if it can be proven that statements supporting BDS are libelous and encourage a hatred of Israel based on such claims. However, each case would require the approval of the Attorney General and would open the door to legal challenges under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Media watchdog Honest Reporting called the CBC out on what it says are violations of the corporation’s own standards. HR pointed to a long history of anti-Israel bias at CBC, particularly by Macdonald.
Canada has long been a friend to Israel, and the current Harper government has been one of the Jewish State’s staunchest supporters. In January, days before Blaney’s speech, Canadian and Israeli officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding which pledged to combat BDS, calling the movement “the new face of anti-Semitism.”