By MERIEM YOUSFI
In 2007, when I decided to come to Canada, I did a lot of research. I was surfing from one website to another and realized I was going to a country where everything is different than in most countries.
That was interesting since it made me create my wish list, which included freedom, respect, dignity and human rights.
When I arrived in Canada, I spent a month exploring what I read and felt the freedom and human rights.
Since that time, I have been thinking that the Canadian government is a reliable government. It gives everyone on its soil, whether they are citizens, immigrants, students or diplomats, a chance to discover what freedom means. Also, it is a government that encourages you to do whatever is lawful and permissible.
Moreover, when I hear Canadian citizens criticize the government and its policies, I tell them they should be proud of being Canadian. If they see how people in other countries lived they will be grateful to Canada and its government.
However, I recently started to change my mind as a result of three incidents that made me write beside my old notes, “It is a big lie.” I know many people will ask, “Why? What happened?
I will mention the reasons but let me clarify. All human beings have the same right to feel freedom and self-determination.What happened first is I read an article in The Globe and Mail that says the office of John Baird, the Foreign Affairs minister, received a complaint from Shimon Fogol, the chief executive officer of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, about a YouTube video tweeted by Linda Sobeh, the Palestinian envoy in Ottawa. The federal government deemed the video an offensive diatribe against the Jews. As a result Sobeh was asked to leave Canada.
Sobeh had posted a Palestinian poem with English subtitles, which were mis-translated, to celebrate the swap of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners with the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Isn’t that a suppression of Sobeh’s freedom of opinion and expression?
Does the Canadian government know that it is her way to celebrate the first Palestinian victory since 1948 and express her happiness when she saw prisoners freed after being jailed for years?
The second incident that made me change my mind about the Canadian government is that Canada was among 13 countries that voted against Palestine having full membership in United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). From 194 countries members in UNESCO, 107 voted in favour, 52 abstained and the rest were absent. In addition, Canada will freeze its contribution at $12 million and UNESCO should not look to Canada to fill the budget hole left by the loss of $70 million in U.S. funding, said a spokesman for Baird.
The worst of the incident is that the Canadian government is acting against the wishes of its own people, who favour granting the Palestinians full status at the United Nations (UN) and its agencies, according to a recent BBC poll.
Does the Canadian government know that because of the Israeli blockade of Palestine there are people who need UN and its agencies’ services?
Does the Canadian government know that acting against the wishes of its own people is immoral and a betrayal?
What happened is Canada can’t be part of voluntary campaigns to help people in other countries and can’t protect Canadians who want to be part of any of these campaigns.
Activists aboard a Canadian boat and an Irish boat failed to reach their official destination of Gaza as they were intercepted by the Israeli navy before they could run Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.
I understand the Canadian action with the Palestinian envoy, and I’m still waiting for the reaction to what happened to the Canadian boat and the Canadian activists aboard.
It might sound that I’m biased in support of Palestinians and maybe you are right, but by coincidence the three incidents that turned my opinion upside down include Palestine. Freedom, dignity and self-determination are not only for Canadians or for people who are on Canadian soil. They’re for every human being.
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