TORONTO (JTA) — The Canadian government has denied a report that it is considering criminalizing boycotts of Israel.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp’s website earlier this week posted a story saying Ottawa “is signaling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel,” saying such a move “could target a range of civil society organizations.”
The report came after CBC reporter Neil Macdonald asked the government what it meant by earlier statements that it would show “zero tolerance” for those who promote boycotts of Israel.
In a speech at the United Nations in January, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney stated Canada has a “zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination, including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
Macdonald received a reply from Blaney’s office saying Canada “has the most comprehensive sets of laws against hate crime anywhere in the world,” and that the country “will not allow hate crimes to undermine our way of life, which is based on diversity and inclusion.”
Macdonald claimed the response implied that the government could launch criminal actions under its hate crimes provisions against pro-BDS religious groups such as the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers, as well as campus and community organizations, labor unions, and others who promote BDS.
Blaney’s office denounced the story as “inaccurate and ridiculous,” adding, “these laws have been on the books for many years and have not changed. We won’t dignify this bizarre conspiracy theory with further comment.”
Honest Reporting, a media monitoring group, wrote that Macdonald’s “animus against Israel is well-known.”