BDS discussion in Kingston Ontario

The Canadian BDS Coalition & International BDS Allies were pleased to join a Coalition of organizations supporting Palestine in Kingston for Nakba 2024.


Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign Discussion – Karen Rodman – YouTube


The text as shared by Karen Rodman.

I am very pleased to join you, and share a little about BDS, including the work across Canada and Quebec over the years, as well as the current context. Just Peace Advocates is a member of the Canadian BDS Coalition.

I thought I would start by asking if anyone has any suggestions of when this question was asked in the Ontario legislature.

Could the Premier tell this House whether he intends to bring forward legislation, not by a private member but as a government, to take the tough measures he promised would be taken in the event that the federal measures are insufficient to deal with the anti-Israel boycott?

It was actually in 1977 of Conservative Premier William Davis, during the debate that took place during the late 1970s both in provincial legislatures as well as  in the Canadian parliament.

Perhaps some of you are surprised by this. Others not.

In 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice ruling related to the apartheid wall being illegal, Palestinian civil society groups came together to launch what we know as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or BDS movement. Some of those 170 signatory groups actually, you might be surprised to hear were in Canada—student groups and others, with diaspora and solidarity supporters.

Following this there was organizing on a number of fronts across Canada including with the Canadians Against Israeli Apartheid or CAIA, which including SAIA—students groups, Labour for Palestine and Faulty for Palestine. It was from these efforts that the initial Israeli Apartheid Weeks began and then spread from Canada around the world. These groups were active, and especially in having labour unions pass BDS resolutions, starting with the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employee in 2006, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in 2008, and others through these few years.

The call urges various forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it mets its obligations under international law by:

-ending the occupation of the West Bank including E Jerusalem and Gaza

-the end of apartheid in historic Palestine; and

-the realization of the right of return as afforded under UN Resolution 194

In 2016, with the Canadian government having passed the anti-BDS motion, groups across Canada and Quebec came together, and formed the Canadian BDS Coalition. Groups that agreed to the basis of unity which included the three premises of end the occupation, end apartheid and the realization of the right of return were welcomed to join.

Over the last 8 years between 20 and 30 groups across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island have worked together, developing campaigns, and supporting each other’s work.

The first victory was in November 2017, when Air Canada confirmed it had ended its contract with Israel Aerospace Industries to service its commercial jets. This was two years into a five year contract. The following year, when Israel came out with its Strategic list of organizations, the Canadian BDS Coalition was the only Canadian group included, and we were mapped to  groups like Al-Haq and others that we had worked with.

The Coalition’s basis of unity has evolved over the years to add that we are anti-imperialist, anti-zionist,

  1. Regardless of its national and/or geographic location, any company, organization or institution that is empowering Israeli settler colonization, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, apartheid is complicit in them, and accordingly is subject to the economic, academic, and cultural boycott call.


  1. Due to the direct US involvement in Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people by sending troops, military equipment and also shielding Israel from accountability for its war crimes, we call for a general economic boycott against the US, where attainable and possible. We also call for a similar boycott against countries that are complicit in this genocide, especially Britain, Germany and Canada.


  1. We believe in the universality of human rights, and that the injustices that befell the Palestinian people should be rectified.


  1. We recognize that Zionism is a supremacist ideology which has created a settler colonial state in historic Palestine. We support the establishment of a secular democratic State of Palestine in the historic land of Palestine with equality before the law for all citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity or gender


Most recently, the Coalition has approved that its name will be the Canadian BDS Coalition and International BDS Allies to reflect international groups joining.


In regard to the tactics, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,

Often the focus has been on boycotts, including targeted campaigns such has HP, Puma, Israeli produce, and many other products. However, also important has been being able to name and shame a broader list of companies, brands and products, so the consumer has the opportunity to be aware of the complicity in war crimes and now potential genocide of these companies and products. The interest and demand in doing this has increased significantly since October of course.  It is also important to not declare victory unless it is very clear—for example the opportunistic announcement by Puma during holiday shopping that not renewing their contract was not knew news, and also did not address the other contract they have with Macabi—the Canadian BDS Coalition maintained that the Puma boycott remains until they no longer play with apartheid.

In regard to divestment, this has been harder, partially because there is very little disclosure by pensions, and institutions. For the last four years a comprehensive review of the Canadian Pension, and for last three years the Quebec pension has revealed the $10 billion or more invested in companies complicit with war crimes in each of these pensions. More recently analysis of the seven public pensions that are required to publish their holdings with the US Security Exchange has revealed all are holding funds complicit with war crimes, and together these 7 pensions plans along with the Canada and Quebec pension plan have $25 Billion invested in companies complicit with war crimes and potentially genocide.  The processes to consider these companies includes considering the companies that are included in the UN database, as well as those listed by AFSC Investigate and this year we have also included any companies that are on the Canada Stop Arming Israel listing. This process provides some rigor to ensure that companies that are well documented for their complicity are considered.

With the current student encampments and call for disclosure and divestment, it will be important to be aware of the tools to assess the holdings should the institutions provide disclosure. Also, to follow through to ensure the divestment happens, policy is put in place so re-investment does not happen, and that transparency and follow through happen to ensure compliance with any commitment.

One example would be after about 10 years of efforts by people in the United Church of Canada, the general meeting of the church passed a divestment motion in 2015—to date, neither the pension plan nor the investments of the church have not disclosed their holdings, and no action has been taken by the church, not even a single congregation anywhere across the country. So while there was media coverage and upset by the pro Israel voices at the time, I remember hearing an interview on a right wing station in Toronto shortly after where a leader of CIJA said we are not worried about the United Church—it seemed they knew that there would not be any material action taken, and seems they were right. So, it is important to ensure the efforts really are implemented.


Sanctions of course are key as we know from the South Africa anti-apartheid movement. In the western context the government and institutional double-standards even where laws are in place. While Russian liquor was pulled from shelves within a day, instead wine from the occupied Syrian Golan and Palestine continued to be sold, even when a court case requiring it to at least be label had been won, with Palestinian wine and beer that arrived on the same ship being confiscated and held by the LCBO for seven months. That said the legal cases being taken forward, especially over the last few months, and work to expose tax subsidized charity dollars going to support Israeli far right settlement groups and even the Israeli army, are providing some hope as people learn more about the specific complicity, and make calls for government and other institutions.

In particular, we are pointing out “the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians – Canada (“ICJP – Canada”) has provided the Government of Canada with notice of intent to seek the prosecution of Canadian officials who are allegedly complicit in Israel’s war crimes. ICJP Canada is also considering expanding the scope of its initiative to pursue accountability of Canadian companies who are allegedly complicit in Israel’s war crimes. Like Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court applies to both state actors and private individuals. The latter makes it an offence to, “aid, abet or otherwise assist,” in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity”

I am glad to talk about various efforts, tactics, and background related to campaigns, or other work, as well as the efforts to work in Coalition on BDS, but also intersectionality with other work related to anti-war and foreign policy.

In this moment, we realize the energy, creativity and commitment, and in that regard, it is a humbling and an honour to be an alley in the support of Palestinian liberation.

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