OTTAWA (Jul. 26)
The statement by a leader of the ruling Progressive Conservative party yesterday that its promise to enact tougher legislation against application of the Arab boycott in Canada is no longer on the government’s list of priorities, drew expressions of outrage from the opposition Liberal Party today. But Canadian Jewish leaders expressed confidence that the government would honor its pre-election commitment.
Walter Baker, President of the Privy Council and leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the House of Commons, appeared to link the boycott issue for the first time with Prime Minister Joe Clark’s election campaign promise to move the Canadian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Baker told a press conference yesterday that it would not be appropriate to introduce an anti-boycott bill while Robert Stanfield, former head of the Progressive Conservative Party, is studying the situation in the Middle East. Clark appointed Stanfield last month to head a study mission to the Middle East on the proposed Embassy move and related issues. He was given one year to draft a report and recommendations.
That move by Clark was widely viewed as a retreat from his Embassy pledge under pressure from the Arab oil-producing states and Canadian business interests. Before the elections, the Progressive Conservatives were sharply critical of the Liberal government’s boycott guidelines and promised to introduce foolproof anti-boycott legislation modeled on the strict anti-boycott laws enacted by the provincial legislature in Ontario.
But now, Foreign Trade Minister Michael Wilson says the guidelines are working well for the time being and that the government is able to tell which firms give in to boycott pressure.
TERMED ‘OUTRAGEOUS ABANDONMENT’
Robert Caplan, a Liberal MP for the Toronto area denounced the government’s latest position today as “an outrageous abandonment of a serious commitment to Canadians.” Another MP Herbert Grey, said the government is doing even less than the previous Liberal regime it criticized so severely before the elections.
Harold Buchwald, chairman of the Canada-Israel Committee; issued a statement yesterday on behalf of Canadian Jewish leaders It noted that “The Prime Minister and his colleagues have repeatedly stated their unequivocal support for comprehensive anti-boycott legislation. We believe that the government will enact such legislation. The government determines its own priorities and legislative agenda and the Canada-Israel Committee Intends to consult with the government on this matter.”
The statement added, “The Arab boycott is an issue of concern to all Canadians because of its important implications for human rights and Canadian sovereignty.” The statement was issued on behalf of Judge Philip Givens, president, Canadian Zionist Federation; Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, president, Canadian Jewish Congress; and Lou Ronson, president, District 22 of B’nai B’rith.