Good Sunday Morning!
As I had hoped last Sunday, there is some good news this morning, but no doubt we have all been tossing and turning and praying through the night for the innocents of Gaza, for the trapped hostages and for peace itself.
The nightmare for Israel and Gaza has not lessened. On the contrary, the bombardment of Gaza has intensified. An estimated 7000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, thousands of them children. Major international humanitarian organizations are increasingly alarmed. Israel’s blockade of Gaza in shutting off electricity, blocking food, fuel, water and other essential supplies has only opened to allow a trickle of aid into Gaza. By Friday there were widespread reports of increased isolation of Gaza through the failure of internet. Israel controls internet to Gaza but it is unknown if bombing damaged the infrastructure that allowed for communications and internet or whether Israel flicked a switch to shut it down. Amnesty International, UNICEF and the WHO are all expressing alarm that they have lost contact with their staff inside Gaza – so too are news organizations as journalists are also being killed. We do know that the UN agency responsible for services to Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, the UNRWA (full name the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) has reported that 53 members of its staff have been killed in Israeli shelling of Gaza. I met some of these dedicated humanitarian workers when our parliamentary caucus (the Canada Palestinian Parliamentary Friendship Group) toured Israel and areas under occupation in the West Bank and other areas in March 2018. We talked to the UNRWA staff, mostly the schoolteachers and medical staff. It is unbearable to know the unrelenting Israeli bombing is killing so many innocent people – just as it is unbearable to know that Hamas deliberately targeted innocent Israeli families, committing atrocities as it moved through a music festival and through Jewish homes.
It now seems clear that Israel was warned of the Hamas plans by Egypt three days before the attacks, with that information shared with the United States. Even if the Israeli military was unable to avoid the attack altogether, it is incomprehensible that there was no military or police presence at the October 7 music festival so near the Gaza border at which hundreds of innocent Israelis, mostly young people, were slaughtered.
It is a large question why the Israeli government did nothing to thwart the attacks.
Just as it is wrong to condemn innocent Palestinians assuming they support Hamas, it is equally wrong to assume Israelis or Jewish Canadians support Netanyahu and his illegal actions in bombing Gaza. There is now a significant effort by Israeli families of the hostages to demand answers from their government. For days, the families, organized quickly as the “Missing Families Forum” have been publicly critical of their government for leaving them in the dark. They are increasingly alarmed that the Israeli bombing is targeting the underground tunnels of Gaza where the hostages are known to be held. Yesterday the families got their first meeting with Netanyahu to demand assurances the Israeli military is instructed to protect hostages.
On Wednesday, when Justin Trudeau takes all the questions in QP, I was so proud that Mike Morrice used his rare question to call for a ceasefire, He asked, “In just two and a half weeks, almost 8,000 Israeli and Palestinian civilians have been killed, including more than 2,700 Palestinian kids. How many more children need to die before the government calls for a ceasefire?” We say “ceasefire” the government says “humanitarian pause,” but neither has happened.
The agonizing violence continues, while we try to push our own government to choose the right side. There is only one side – that of humanity, for innocents, for children and for peace.
In our more routine work in parliament this week, we had a rare chance to educate MPs who live nowhere near the Salish Sea about the unacceptable and routine “free parking” given to bulk carriers and freighters in our waters. A bill before parliament dealing with improvements in rail safety and managing ports, Bill C-33, is now before the Transportation Committee (to which I am not allowed to be a member). I was thrilled that after twisting a few arms on the committee, one of my constituents, Bruce McConchie, was selected as a witness and came to Ottawa to testify in person on C-33. Bruce represented the amazing citizens’ network the South Coast Ship Watch Alliance (SCSWA). Bruce did a fantastic job! I think his evidence of the routine destruction of the seabed, the threat of accident and collisions as ships drag anchor and move during storms, harassment of endangered whales in their critical habitat and disruption of the quality of life for local residents routinely inflicted by the anchorages, really shocked MPs from all parties. I was only able to participate by zoom and thanks to help from some Liberal MPs was allowed to get in one question, raising the reality that the use of the Salish Sea waters in the territory of Coast Salish peoples has never had consultation as required under UNDRIP. I will be presenting amendments to C-33 when the committee moves to clause by clause review.
In other progress made possible by our work as Green MPs, and thanks entirely to Mike Morrice and his team, the Parliamentary Budget Office released its study on how much revenue the federal government could secure if it taxed the excess profits of fossil fuel companies. This is the goal of Motion 92 introduced by Mike.
I had a question at QP on Friday and put it to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault that it was past time to tax the excess profits of Big Oil. Here’s the Youtube of my question and the minister’s response. In case you missed it, the reason I start by describing Liberal climate plans as looking like “Swiss cheese,” was that this week Trudeau and company delivered a carve-out to Atlantic Canada in exempting home heating oil from the carbon pricing system. This was transparently due to falling poll numbers in Atlantic Canada. I would have cheered a move to help Atlantic Canadians by making it easier to retrofit leaky homes and install heat pumps (heat pumps were included in the announcement) but exemptions on fossil fuel emissions based on political trouble is not a good way to make policy. Consistency in climate policy has never been the Liberals’ problem. Climate leaders do not buy and build pipelines, or approve offshore drilling, or increase fossil fuel subsidies, but Trudeau’s administration has done all these things.
And lastly some really GOOD news!! My private members bill, C-226 to create a strategy to advance environmental justice, already passed at all stages in the House, just cleared its first hurdle in the Senate! Thanks to Senate sponsor Indigenous Senator Mary Jane McCallum we had the votes, and C-226 passed at Second Reading in the Senate on Thursday and is on to study before committee there!
For friends on Salt Spring Island, I hope to see you tomorrow for the ground breaking for the new Fire Hall, Monday Oct. 30th. Meet at the Legion at 3:00, event on-site at 3:30.
And on Saturday November 4, we still have seats available at the Charlie White Theatre in Sidney for an amazing evening of music and inspiration! Join us to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Green Party of Canada – and to kick off my re-election campaign in Saanich-Gulf Islands! Featuring legendary folk singer Bob Bossin, fiddler Calvin Cairns, BC Greens founder (and my fabulous partner) John Kidder, and GPC founder and first national leader Dr.Trevor Hancock! Greens Deputy leader Jonathan Pedneault will be on hand plus our national executive director Kevin Dunbar. Plus I’ll be there too!
Please RSVP HERE as space is limited.
Much love and thanks to you all. Your support means the world to me in these fraught times,