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Critics say Canada's silence speaks volumes as Israel races towards annexation –



On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday, he spoke by phone with Israeli “alternate” Prime Minister Benny Gantz.

Israel has two prime ministers who loathe each other because that arrangement was the only way to form a halfway-functioning government in a polarized country that staged three elections in 12 months without producing a clear result.

The two PMs have agreed not so much to share power as to operate two parallel administrations at the same time. Many Israeli political observers expect the two men to continue their in-fighting on a different plane.

But there is one long-term project of Netanyahu’s that Gantz has promised not to oppose after July 1: the formal annexation by Israel of part of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967 but never recognized as part of Israel by any government.

Trudeau has had separate conversations with both Israeli PMs. But if the Canadian government’s anodyne readouts of the calls are accurate, he had exactly the same conversation with both men.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, centrist Blue and White leader and Netanyahu’s partner in his new unity government, wear face masks as they talk during a swearing-in ceremony for the new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 17, 2020. (Adina Valman/Knesset Spokesperson’s Office via Reuters)

Canada won’t recognize the annexation

The words “annexation”, “West Bank” and “occupied territories” do not appear anywhere in the readouts. Although government officials who spoke to CBC News pointed to a passing reference to the “two-state solution”, they were unable to say that the prime minister had warned his Israeli counterpart not to proceed with the annexation.

Two officials did tell CBC News there is no chance that Canada will recognize the annexation.

Global Affairs spokesman Adam Austen told CBC News that “Canada is very concerned that Israel moving forward with unilateral annexation would be damaging to peace negotiations and contrary to international law.  This could lead to further insecurity for Israelis and Palestinians at a critical time for peace and stability in the region.”

But the Trudeau government, which has largely continued the UN voting pattern of the Harper government rather than those of the Chrétien and Martin governments, does not appear keen on challenging Israel.

In fact, the readout says Canada is seeking closer ties: “Prime Minister Trudeau expressed Canada’s continued support for Israel as a friend and ally, and the two leaders discussed ways to continue strengthening their bilateral relationship …”

No support for annexation in Ottawa

No major Canadian federal party appears to support recognition of annexation. Conservative foreign affairs critic Leona Alleslev told CBC News that “Conservatives continue to believe in the two-state solution, as part of a negotiated settlement to this conflict, as well as the right of Israel to defend itself and secure its borders.”

The NDP’s Jack Harris pointed out that “other nations, including the U.K., Norway, Ireland and France, have made strong declarations” against annexation.

“Now that the incoming government of Israel has committed to a plan to annex lands in the occupied territories, Canada must speak out and condemn such action,” he said in a statement. “It would be a clear violation of international law and the Geneva Convention to which Canada is party.”

The Green Party caucus sent a letter to Trudeau earlier this month asking him to apply the same standards to Israel’s proposed annexation that his government applied to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“The attempt by the Netanyahu government to take this action while the world is busy dealing with an unprecedented global public health crisis is reprehensible,” said the letter.

Hawks against hawks

The annexation plan has split opinion in Israel. The Israeli peace camp rejects it as the last nail in the coffin of the Oslo Accords, but the plan is also opposed by a large part of Israel’s hawkish security establishment.

A group of former Israel Defence Forces generals recently warned that “unilateral annexation has the potential to ignite a serious conflagration” and “any partial annexation is likely to set in motion a chain reaction over which Israel will have no control.”

But the proposal is popular with the Trump administration, which has encouraged Netanyahu to move forward. In fact the annexation map is being drawn up by a joint U.S.-Israeli “mapping team” that includes U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, his adviser Aryeh Lightstone and C. Scott Leith, a senior adviser on the U.S. National Security Council.

Palestinian demonstrators run away from tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest against Israeli settlements and U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast initiative in the West Bank village of Beita on Feb. 28, 2020. (Majdi Mohammed/The Associated Press)

Israel’s supporters unconvinced

Some Israeli observers have argued President Trump, rather than PM Netanyahu, is driving the annexation schedule in order to have something to show his evangelical supporters in time for the presidential election in November.

But the move may be more popular with American evangelicals than with American Jews.

Strong supporters of Israel, including Republicans like Daniel Pipes and the Democratic Majority for Israel, have come out against it.

“We cannot overstate the long-term damage such a move would have on the U.S.-Israel alliance,” Mark Mellman, a longtime strategist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), warned in letters sent to both of Israel’s new prime ministers.

‘No fuss being made’

The doubts over the wisdom of annexation being felt in Israel and the U.S. may be mirrored in the pro-Israel community in Canada, which hasn’t greeted the proposal with any real enthusiasm. CBC News asked the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs for its take on the issue, but it declined to comment.

From the other side of the debate, though, the group Independent Jewish Voices, which opposes the occupation of the West Bank, called the plan “a test to countries like Canada which claim to stand for a rules-based international order, but in reality only do so selectively, whenever it is politically expedient.”

IJV’s Corey Balsam said merely withholding recognition isn’t a good enough response from a government that claims to be a guardian of international law.

“If there’s no fuss being made, then Israel will continue annexing land,” he told CBC News. “At this point, what Israel requires is punitive measures where it’s being deterred. That’s where the conversation is globally, especially in Europe, where allies like Ireland and France are exploring avenues to deter Israel. Not just staying silent and refusing to recognize annexation.”

Free trade with annexed territory?

Balsam notes that Canada imports dates from Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley that are on the list of lands to be annexed. “The government may say that they won’t recognize annexation, but will they modify the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) to exclude those territories from privileged trade status?” he asked. “I highly doubt that”. 

CBC News asked officials in Global Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office about that issue but was told that they had no comment on the matter.

Canada currently allows products from illegal West Bank settlements to enter the country duty-free under CIFTA, arguing that Israel and the West Bank are part of a customs union agreed to mutually by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That agreement would no longer exist following annexation.

A farmer harvests wheat near the West Bank city of Jenin on April 24, 2014. (Mohammed Ballas/The Associated Press)

Balsam criticized the statement issued after Trudeau’s call to Netanyahu for its talk of “increasing ties, improving relations, adding to trade and collaboration.”

“You’d think that if Canada’s trying to send a strong message that they’re not happy with the direction Israel is going, they would perhaps suggest that type of collaboration is based upon Israel not annexing territory,” he said.

Double standard

Michael Lynk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories (who also teaches law at the University of Western Ontario), said the Trudeau government’s mild reaction to Israeli annexation plans stand in stark contrast to its response to Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014.

That provoked a flood of retaliatory measures that have only escalated since.

When she was Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland repeatedly spoke about the need to defend what she has called “the vital international norm” established after the Second World War that no country should be allowed to alter its borders by force.

“Today’s sanctions demonstrate that Canada and the international community are ready to impose costs on Russia when it ignores international law and the rules-based international order,” she said last year on the fifth anniversary of the Crimean annexation, as she announced that Canada had increased the number of Russian individuals and organizations facing sanctions for that act to more than 400.

A flag bearing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face waves over a Moscow crowd during the Vesna (Spring) festival commemorating the annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2017. (Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press)

Lynk said the Trudeau government appears to be much less interested in upholding international law and the rules-based system when it comes to Israel.

“Russia was expelled from the G8. There was an import and export ban imposed on the goods manufactured in Crimea,” he said. “There were a range of sanctions against Russia and individual asset freezes and travel bans were imposed on Russia as well.

“There is no daylight between the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the Israeli annexation of any of the territory it conquered in 1967. For Canada to remain silent … tells me that Canada is applying different standards to situations that are essentially the same.

“It’s surprising to me that Canada has lost its voice on this, given its commitment to a rules-based international order.”

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Canada now has more than 95,000 coronavirus cases — more than 34K are active –



More than 720 new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Canada on Saturday — all but 41 of them from Ontario and Quebec.

As Canada surged past 95,000 cases of COVID-19, the two most populous provinces continued to account for the vast majority of new cases and deaths reported daily.

Nearly 53,000 people around the country are considered recovered.

How many Canadians have the new coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Ontario saw 455 new cases — but only 387 of them were new since Friday — while Quebec reported 226 new infections. Quebec has more than 52,000 cases so far, while Ontario has seen more than 30,000.

Quebec has seen nearly 5,000 deaths so far, accounting for almost 64 per cent of the national death toll. Ontario has the second highest number of deaths, at just over 2,400.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines

Coronavirus outbreak: Protestors want commitment on status for asylum seekers working Quebec COVID-19 frontlines

Out of 70 new deaths reported on Saturday, Ontario and Quebec both reported 35 fatalities each. Quebec saw hospitalizations go down, and only 22 of the 35 deaths were classified as new.

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Alberta recorded 40 new cases and no new deaths, bringing its figures to more than 7,100 cases and 146 deaths. This was a sharp uptick from a day earlier, when the province reported just seven new cases. More than 6,600 people are deemed recovered.

Pool testing for COVID-19 could help Canada reopen. Here’s what it is

Saskatchewan reported one new case, for a total of 650 cases. Eleven people have died so far, and more than 610 are considered recovered.

No new cases

For the second day in a row, all of the Atlantic provinces saw no new cases or deaths on Saturday. Nova Scotia has the most number of cases — 1,058, including 61 deaths. Most of New Brunswick’s 136 cases have recovered as it battles an outbreak in the Campbellton region — one person in the province has died.

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Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities

Coronavirus: Montreal borough announces cancellation of summer aquatic activities

Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases, and is set to allow travel within the province starting June 8 (Monday). Prince Edward Island has seen no new infections since all 27 of its cases have recovered.

The Northwest Territories and the Yukon remain COVID-19 free, with all their cases having recovered weeks ago. Nunavut remains the only region in Canada that hasn’t seen a case yet.

Coronavirus outbreak: Canada could see up to 9,400 total deaths by June 15, new modelling shows

Manitoba also reported no new cases on Saturday, leaving it with nine active cases and more than 280 recoveries. Seven people have died in the province so far.

British Columbia had no new figures to report on Saturday. The province has seen more than 2,600 cases so far and 167 deaths.

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The novel coronavirus has resulted in more than 6.8 million cases around the world and more than 398,000 deaths, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

— With files by The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Anti-black racism protests, vigils planned across Canada –



Canadians continued to rally and demonstrate against anti-black racism and police brutality on Saturday, a day after thousands attended protests and vigils across the country.

The demonstrations follow days of protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minn. A police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Many are calling for police reform and an end to systemic racism.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Friday urged demonstrators to “take care of themselves” and follow public health guidelines such as physical distancing as much as possible and using hand sanitizers.

Read on to see what’s happening around Canada.


Thousands demonstrated in two separate protests in Toronto against anti-black racism. The first protest began at Nathan Phillips Square, while the second began at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Twanna Lewis, a Toronto resident at Trinity Bellwoods Park, said she was protesting for the first time on Saturday because she felt the need to take a stand for people who are voiceless. She has an 18-year-old black son, cousins, uncles and a brother.

“It’s 2020 and we need to be doing better,” Lewis told CBC Toronto. “It’s a shame that we have to be having this conversation in this day and age, when we think that we have gone so far.”

WATCH | Hand sanitizer, masks handed out at Toronto protest:

CBC’s Lorenda Reddekopp reports from inside a peaceful protest march Saturday where hand sanitizer and masks were being handed out 3:09

At Nathan Phillips Square, demonstrators chanted, held placards and posters, and listened to speakers. Then the protesters marched to the U.S. consulate and onward to Yonge-Dundas Square.

“I can’t breathe,” the crowd chanted at one point at Nathan Phillips Square, in a reference to some of Floyd’s last words before his death on May 25.

People held up signs that read “No Justice No Peace” and “Yes it’s here too Ford.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford had said Canada doesn’t have the “systemic, deep roots” of racism as the U.S.

WATCH | Protesters, police speak at Toronto demonstration:

Action for injustice group behind march through downtown: CBC’s Natalie Nanowski reports from the scene at Nathan Phillips Square 4:01

St. John’s 

Thousands of people kneeled on the lawn of Confederation Building in St. John’s during a rally in support of the Black Lives Matter.

The rally, organized by newly established Black Lives Matter NL, featured speeches and performances from members of the area’s black community sharing their own stories of racism.

Crowds were able to physically distance during the rally, spreading themselves across the lawn of Confederation Building. There was a small police presence, but no incidents were reported.

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter rally at the Confederation Building in St. John’s on Saturday. (Marie Isabelle Rochon/Radio-Canada)

Zainab Jerrett, who came to Newfoundland in the 1990s and is a professor at Memorial University, was one of the speakers on stage and was overwhelmed by the public support.

“That shows that this problem is effecting everybody, and everyone wants to chip in to bring a solution,” Jerrett said. “I almost got emotional because there’s so many people … young people of all cultures in Newfoundland.”

“This is an awakening. The people are interested in listening to the black community” she added. “[But] we are all the same. The more we come together as a human race, the better.”


A vigil is scheduled for 4 p.m. MT outside Calgary’s Olympic Plaza in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“We must all come together to speak against murders by police officers and the institutions defending them,” organizers said in a Facebook post.

They also encourage attendees to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines like wearing masks and physical distancing.

Thousands attended a similar demonstration in Calgary on Wednesday.

Fort McMurray, Alta.

Elsewhere in Alberta, a Black Lives Matter rally was held at Fort McMurray City Hall.

The rally comes as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says Wood Buffalo RCMP officers beat and arrested him in a Fort McMurray parking lot earlier this year. 

People gather outside city hall for a Black Lives Matter Rally in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Saturday. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

London, Ont.

In London, Ont., hundreds gathered at Victoria Park for an anti-racism rally.

Mayor Ed Holder said he supports the purpose behind the rally but declined to attend in person to comply with physical distancing rules recommended by health authorities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Guelph, Ont.

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph, Ont., as thousands of demonstrators descended upon city hall. Organizer took COVID-19 precautions after health officials urged protesters to adhere to public health protocols.

A similar demonstration in Kitchener on Wednesday saw thousands of people walk through the downtown core holding signs. 

Volunteers handed out bottles of water and squirts of hand sanitizer to marchers in Guelph. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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‘They’re targeting us’: Why some advocates want to defund Canadian police – Global News



In recent days, protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality have erupted across the U.S. and Canada in response to the deaths of Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

Now, some advocates are calling for police forces to be defunded and taxpayer money to be redirected — a conversation that is also happening in Canada, stemming from the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman who fell from her Toronto apartment balcony after police entered the unit.

Police claim they were responding to a reported assault, but the family has questioned the role of the police in her death. The Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s police watchdog, is currently investigating.

READ MORE: Advocates call plan to boost Black history B.C. school curriculum ‘long overdue’

Defunding the police means redirecting the budget for Canada’s police forces to other services that focus on social supports, mental health and even spaces like transit, said Sandy Hudson, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto and a law student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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“There’s no reason why we can’t start a service that is another emergency response service where people can call a number and have someone who is trained in de-escalation,” Hudson said.

Now, with more incidents of police brutality in the news, calls for defunding the police both in the U.S. and Canada are louder than ever.

The history of police in Canada

This is hardly the first time defunding the police has been talked about in Canada, experts told Global News.

Examining the way police uphold and participate in anti-Black racism and violence towards Black and Indigenous communities in Canada has been a discussion for decades, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

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“Part of it is discrimination within policing — both implicit and explicit — but then the other parts of it are how the police operate and what we’re asking police to do,” he said.

Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence

Regis Korchinski-Paquet death: Toronto protesters march in memoriam, against anti-Black violence

The origins of policing in the southern United States were based on preserving the slavery system, as Time magazine reports, and police were primarily tasked with being “slave patrols” to prevent Black slaves from escaping. After the Civil War ended, these patrols still existed to uphold segregation and discrimination towards Black people.

Police in Canada were historically also tasked with “clearing the land” to steal the property of Indigenous Peoples, said Hudson.

“Those two focuses of the police, Indigenous and Black people, controlling us … there’s a through line to today and how the police interact with our communities,” she said.

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READ MORE: The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people. Can the relationship be reset?

Policing has been used to enforce the dominant narrative in Canada, which is colonization, said Alicia Boatswain-Kyte, a social work professor at McGill University whose research examines systemic oppression.

“These institutions are a product of (colonialism); they stem from that,” she said. “Right now we’re seeing what it looks like at this stage … and it gets manifested in the form of police brutality.”

Mental health, homelessness and other social issues

Experts are concerned that police in Canada are tasked with issues related to poverty, mental health and homelessness, and they are “ill-equipped and an inappropriate resource to be addressing those issues,” Owusu-Bempah said.

A 2018 report on racial profiling by the Ontario Human Rights Commission found that a Black person was 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fating shooting by Toronto police. The report was the result of an inquiry launched after Andrew Loku, a father of five who was experiencing mental health issues, died after being shot by police.

A coroner’s inquest ruled that Loku’s death was the result of a homicide and recommended that police are better trained if they are to deal with mental health calls.

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“The violence we see inflicted by the police are often happening with people who are having a mental health crisis,” said Hudson.

Shifting the money to fund organizations that understand the nuances of mental health issues and the challenges faced by racialized communities would be a better use of taxpayers’ money, she said.

How racism affects Black mental health

How racism affects Black mental health

Out of the nearly one million calls the force responds to, Toronto police respond to about 30,000 mental health calls every year, spokeswoman Meaghan Gray told the Canadian Press.

The force’s mobile crisis intervention teams ⁠— which include a trained officer and a mental health nurse ⁠— attend only 6,000 of those calls each year because they do not go to calls where a weapon may be involved.

Annual training for the force includes courses on communication and deescalation techniques, said Gray.

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“The Toronto Police Service believes that mental health is a complex issue that requires the involvement of multiple entities, including but not limited to community support, public health, and all levels of government, to render any meaningful change,” she said.

READ MORE: Marches in Toronto, Ottawa to honour Black lives lost at hands of police officers

It would be better if a mental health nurse or some other trained expert was always present, Boatswain-Kyte said.

“Are they (police) really the ones that are best suited?” she said.

“Social workers, for instance, go to school to understand how to form relationships, to understand how people are excluded and what factors contribute to their exclusion.”

READ MORE: George Floyd death draws scruitiny on police use of force. What’s Canada’s protocol?

By making police the body available to provide help in these situations, Boatswain-Kyte said, it sends a message that people with those health issues aren’t welcome in our society.

“Regardless of the amount of training … the implicit bias as a result of what (police) have been socialized to believe and understand about the ‘dangers’ of Black and brown bodies is going to influence them at the time when they have to make a decision.”

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Boatswain-Kyte points to a study published in May from Columbia University that found there is “no evidence that enhanced police training focused on mental health crises” can reduce fatal shootings towards those having a mental health crisis, or racialized people in general.

By the numbers

In Toronto, the largest portion of a resident’s property tax bill — around $700 out of an average bill of $3,020 — goes to the Toronto Police Service. The lowest portion of property taxes goes to children’s services, Toronto employment and social services and economic development and culture.

The situation is similar elsewhere in the country, as the Vancouver police budget has grown by more than $100 million in the last decade, representing about one-fifth of the city’s $1.6-billion 2020 operating budget.

Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada

Backlash mounting over Premier Doug Ford’s comments on racism in Canada

A 2014 report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute found that policing budgets in Canada had doubled compared to the GDP since 2004, even though the public calls to police have “remained stable.”

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“Police associations have been happy to stoke public fears about safety, but the correlation between numbers of officers, crime rates and response times has long been shown to be spurious,” the report said, authored by Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University and Royal Military College.

Police work that is essentially unrelated to policing could be done by other groups, Leuprecht explains.

Moving forward

Owusu-Bempah is calling on city mayors like Toronto Mayor John Tory to review which roles and functions we want the police to provide and which should be provided by other agencies.

“Then we need a lot of (the) funding currently spent on police … given to other organizations” that are better equipped to help with issues like homelessness and mental illness, he said.

Given the recent incidents of anti-Black racism and brutality perpetuated by police, Hudson says defunding the police would also give agency and safety to Black communities.

READ MORE: George Floyd’s death still a homicide despite evidence of medical issues: experts

“How could the body that is ostensibly meant to provide safety for our communities … be one of the the the the reasons we keep getting hurt?” Hudson said.

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“Most people don’t have to interact with police at all … but for our communities, they’re targeting us.

“We just want to live like everybody else.”

— With files from the Canadian Press

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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