MONTREAL (Mar. 2)
– Robert Stanfield, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party who went on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East last fall, recommended a strongly pro-Palestinian policy for Canada in his final report made public Friday by acting Prime Minister Joe Clark. He proposed Canadian support of the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland and to self-determination. He also proposed that Canada should talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization but not necessarily recognize the PLO.
Publication of the Stanfield report was one of the final acts of the Clark administration which hands over the reins of government to Premier-designate Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal Party tomorrow. The report is expected to be dealt with after the appointment of a new foreign minister.
Stanfield was dispatched to the Middle East when Clark encountered strong opposition in the Arab world and from the Canadian business community to his 1979 election campaign promise to move the Canadian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his final report he suggested that Canada continue its policy of refusing to recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and surrounding districts. He said Canada should maintain its strong friendship with Israel but should not hesitate to criticize Israel when its government takes administrative measures that hinder the peace process.
“He suggested that the Canadian Human Rights Commission be given wider powers to combat the economic boycott of Israel by the 20-member states of the Arab League and that Canada should be prepared to offer peace-keeping forces and economic aid to Middle Eastern countries under a peace settlement.
Stanfield cautioned the Canadian government that discussions with the PLO should in no way affect a firm stand by Canada against any terrorist activities perpetrated by armed sub-groups of the PLO. Stanfield recommended that Canada develop bilateral relations with Arab countries with respect to energy,-agriculture and technological know-how, He observed in that connection that the Arab world represents an important source of capital and suggested that ministers of the Canadian government pay frequent visits to the Arab countries of the Middle East.
The most controversial aspect of Stanfield’s 10-week tour of Middle Eastern and North African countries was his meeting with PLO officials. Liberal Party members of Parliament, then in the opposition, criticized these meetings. But Foreign Minister Flora MacDonald said they did not amount to official recognition of the PLO.