It’s all very clear

Somewhere in the great book of Conservative Party strategy it is written that, when muddying the political waters, members shall in all cases employ the expression "very clear.

Somewhere in the great book of Conservative Party strategy it is written that, when muddying the political waters, members shall in all cases employ the expression “very clear.”

It’s rumoured that the marketing group considered using “perfectly clear,” but rejected it for its Nixonian association. In any case, informed Ottawa-watchers know that whenever Stephen Harper or any of his cabinet ministers declare themselves to be very clear, a gob of bitumen to the eyeballs is sure to follow.

Maxime Bernier pronounced himself very clear when he, Harper, and Peter Mackay were denying all knowledge that the notorious torturers of the NDS were torturing prisoners handed over to them by Canadian troops. Less clear was why they ever believed that the Afghan secret police would make an exception for Canada’s detainees. Peter Mackay was again very clear about the F-35 fighter jet, as the price played billion-dollar leapfrog with itself.

Jim Flaherty wants to be “very clear” that he is “committed to balancing the budget in 2015. Period,” though he was equally clear in the past that it would be balanced by now. At press time, teams of researchers were still busy tabulating the number of times Harper has declared himself very clear while ducking questions on the Senate scandal.

Most recently, according to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the government has been “very clear” about its position on Israeli settlements on the West Bank, despite the fact that it’s impossible to tell what that position is.

The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs makes the following declaration: “As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

The occupied territories are lands taken by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. Settlements are illegal Israeli housing projects on those lands, as well as in annexed territories in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Leaders of the settler movement are unequivocal about its purpose, which is to extend Israeli sovereignty into areas claimed by the Palestinians, to make it impossible that the land will ever be returned. In condemning this act of aggression, the DFA joins not only the UN Security Council, but the International Court of Justice and almost every other country in the world.

But while the Canadian government officially opposes the settlements, Harper and Baird have been very clear that they will neither engage in nor tolerate public criticism of this or any other action taken by the Israeli government. During his recent love-fest in Israel, Harper told the Knesset that criticism of Israeli policy is “the face of the new anti-Semitism.” Baird told an appreciative crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that there would be “consequences” for the Palestinian Authority if they file an international legal complaint against Israel’s settlement program.

Though loath to criticize Israel for its deeds, Baird has no problem with issuing sharp criticism of the PA for its words. When Abbas made his successful bid for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, Baird was there to oppose him. The general assembly overwhelmingly supported Abbas, but the Canadian government didn’t like his speech. “He could have been generous, and we didn’t see any generosity in his remarks,” Baird told the AIPAC convention. “And that deeply, deeply concerned many of us.”

In response to Abbas’s speech and the decision of the UN to recognize the existence of a Palestinian state, Israel announced that it would build 3,000 new illegal homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Canada of course officially opposes this development, but neither Baird nor Harper has made any public expression of deep concern. In fact, according to Baird, the Palestinians themselves are to blame for this appropriation of their territory. Had Abbas not made such an ungenerous speech, Baird explained, Israel would not have had to retaliate.

NGOs who take steps to oppose the settlements cause the Conservatives concern too, as Oxfam Canada was just reminded. Oxfam opposes international trade with the Israeli settlements, a fact which came to light recently when the international development agency fired its “global ambassador” Scarlett Johansson. Johansson came into conflict with Oxfam policy when she took a job representing Sodastream, a gadget manufactured by an Israeli company on occupied Palestinian land.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of employment and one of the most powerful figures in the Conservative Party, responded with a tweet announcing that he had “bought a nice Sodastream” and thanking Oxfam for the tip. For a Canadian NGO, such a jab is not to be taken lightly. In 2009, the church-based aid group Kairos lost its government funding for exactly this: opposing the illegal settlements that the DFA also opposes.

Canada opposes Israeli settlements on occupied land. We also oppose opposition to those settlements, whether by word or by deed. We recognize that the settlements are in violation of the Geneva Conventions and an obstacle to peace, but we can’t say so out loud, and there will be consequences for anyone who does. In the Conservative Party of Canada, this is what passes for clarity.

Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Most Read