A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Defence or Destruction?

Gaza deaths reported to July 8 - July 30 – 1,363, Injured – 6,780 the majority being civilians, including women and children.
Israeli deaths – 58 just two of which were civilians....
Whilst it is very difficult for those of us just observing from a distance via various news media and other online sources to know the true situation in Gaza, it is clear that the virtual imprisonment of an entire population and the targeting of civilian infrastructure by a far superior Israeli force is not simply 'defending' themselves and should not be supported by ANY democratic nation. I do not endorse my governments stance on this issue and therefore agree with the opinions expressed in this open letter to my government and others.

Dear Prime Minister, Minister Baird, Mr Mulcair, Mr Dewar, Mr Trudeau, and Mr Garneau,
We, the undersigned academics, lawyers, and community leaders, are profoundly perturbed by the unbalanced and partisan position adopted by the Canadian Government and federal political parties regarding the current violence in Gaza. While more than 650 Palestinians [update: more than 1000 Palestinians] – 75% civilians, according to the United Nations – have been killed in Israel’s latest military operation, official statements have focused exclusively on denouncing Hamas’s rocket strikes (responsible for two fatalities) and uncritically proclaiming Israel’s right to self-defence.
While Hamas’s indiscriminate rocket firings are illegal under international law, Israel is still bound by basic international humanitarian law principles protecting civilians during times of war and prohibiting collective punishment. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian life and infrastructure in Gaza violate fundamental norms of international law. As of July 22, the toll of the ongoing offensive (the third major military assault on Gaza in six years) includes:
And the toll increases by the hour.
Multiple human rights groups have documented and condemned likely Israeli war crimes in Gaza. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay concluded two weeks ago that “Deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes . . . raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” This week, Ms Pillay confirmed: “There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated [by Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip], in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”
Amnesty International’s report observed, “In several cases of [air strikes on civilian homes in Gaza], no evidence has emerged to indicate that the alleged ‘Hamas operatives’ were inside the homes at the time of the attack, that the homes were being used to store munitions, or otherwise being used for military purposes.” According to Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme: “Unless the Israeli authorities can provide specific information to show how a home is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, deliberately attacking civilian homes constitutes a war crime and also amounts to collective punishment against the families.”
Human Rights Watch similarly found that “Israeli air attacks . . . have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.”
The disregard for international law conveyed by the Government’s silence on such potentially grave violations committed by Israel discredits Canada domestically and internationally. Moreover, adoption of such a one-sided position subverts Canada’s own official foreign policy goal of achieving a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement” between Israel and Palestine. Rather than maintaining a studious silence in the face of these documented violations of international humanitarian law, a true friend would act responsibly and call Israel to account for those violations.
As a country claiming to champion universal human rights and dignity, Canada’s foreign policy must align with international law, and reflect the equal value of Palestinian and Israeli life. The callous devaluation of Palestinian life communicated by our political leaders does not represent us.
Signed by over 900 academics, lawyers, journalists and community leaders and other professionals.

This letter is continuously updated to reflect “current casualty figures and findings of human rights organizations,” and list of signatories at Canadians4Gazans.com.

"And I condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization for sending missiles into Israel, but the Israeli retaliation and the invasion of Gaza violates international law and humanitarian norms, and any Prime Minister of Canada worth his or her salt would say that as a friend and ally of Israel, “you’ve gone too far - you must move to peace talks.”
Elizabeth May in her keynote address to GPC Convention, July 19, 2014

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