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FAAE Committee Report

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The Government of Canada has carefully considered the First Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the “report”).

The Government would like to thank the members of the Committee for the opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the report. The Government would also like to thank the Committee for their efforts in preparing it and welcomes the continuing interest of the Committee on the issues of human rights and religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

Below is the Government’s response to the specific recommendations made by the Committee.

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada officially recognize the experience of Jewish refugees who were displaced from states in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948.

The Government of Canada agrees with this recommendation. Fair and equal acknowledgement of all refugee populations arising out of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the recognition of Jewish refugees. The Government shares the Committee’s belief that such recognition does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.

Canada’s foreign policy objectives place a high importance on respect for human rights. The Government’s commitment to defend and promote the rights of religious communities was underlined by the creation last year of the Office of Religious Freedom, which also promotes the value of diversity and policies that encourage pluralism for the benefit of all, regardless of religious affiliation.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada encourage the direct negotiating parties to take into account all refugee populations as part of any just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts.

The Government of Canada understands the positive intent underlying this recommendation but at this time, Canada has offered its support to the peace process as presently structured. The current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations take place in the context of the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel peace with the broader Arab world if it reaches an agreement with the Palestinians. There currently are no direct negotiations on the subject of Jewish refugees between Israel and the refugees’ countries of origin in the Middle East and North Africa.

Canada continues to advocate for a comprehensive, two-state solution reached through a negotiated agreement between the two parties that guarantees Israel’s right to live in peace and security with its neighbours and leads to the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state. Canada welcomes the re-launch of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, congratulates both sides on taking this courageous and necessary step, commends U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for the leadership he has shown in the peace process, and supports him in this endeavour.

Canada stands ready to assist the peace process in any way it can. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry undertook a $100 million initiative to contribute to economic development in the West Bank, Canada was the first country to respond, contributing $5 million towards that effort. However, an agreement will have to be reached by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves and not by others. Canada is prepared to support the two parties and the U.S.-led process. On January 20, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $66 million in additional support for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza to help advance the peace process, promote security and the rule of law, stimulate sustainable economic growth and deliver humanitarian assistance.