Ecumenical letter calling on Canada to uphold international law and the rights of Palestinians

The following is a letter sent to the Foreign Affairs Minister, François-Philippe Champagne, expressing with great concern Canada’s silence regarding the plans of the current coalition government of Israel to propose a vote in the Knesset on annexing a significant part of the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Primate has written a column in the Anglican Journal on the Anglican Church of Canada’s discernment process on how and when it signs onto these important statements.


May 15, 2020

The Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, P.C., M.P.
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

RE: Canada must uphold international law and condemn the government of Israel’s annexation plans

Dear Minister,

Greetings. We pray that you and your colleagues are well and safe in these challenging times.

We represent Christian denominations, church agencies, ecumenical organizations and networks who work with long-standing Palestinian and Israeli partners towards a just and lasting peace.

We write to you with great concern about Canada’s silence regarding the plans of the current coalition government of Israel to propose a vote in the Knesset (likely July 1st) on annexing a significant part of the occupied Palestinian territories. These plans constitute a grave breach of Canadian and international law, specifically Article 147 of the IV Geneva Convention, prohibiting the appropriation of property. This silence of the Canadian government is puzzling in light of the recent vote at the UN affirming the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, Canada’s policy position on Palestine-Israel, and its staunch support for the rule of law.

Palestinian partners rightfully question the inaction of the international community, stating, “Clear decisions are already taken by the UN. So why further waiting to apply what is already decided?” (Kairos Palestine). Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem is asking, “How can the rule of law have any meaning when it is determined, interpreted and applied in accordance with the interests of those who control and oppress their subjects with the intention of perpetuating their rule by means of this same “law”?” The Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Holy Land Churches urge the government of Israel to restrain from unilateral annexation plans which would surely bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of a peace process.

It is alarming that to date, Canada has remained silent on the threats of annexation made by the government of Israel, when on March 16th, you stated with regard to Russian annexation of Crimea:

“Today marks six years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Canada unequivocally condemns this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and of international law.

Canada and the international community will continue to keep up the pressure to compel Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.”

Furthermore, Canada’s silence is in stark contrast to the European Union’s position of April 23rd:

The European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged. In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank.

The European Union reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law. The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.

Several European governments have spoken publicly against the government of Israel’s plan to annex parts of occupied Palestinian territory, including Ireland and Norway who, like Canada, are running for two seats on the United Nations’ Security Council.

In February 2020, you received a number of letters from a variety of Canadian churches and civil society organizations, urging the government to publicly denounce the United States administration’s ‘Peace and Prosperity Plan’. Your office stated that Canada would respond after having studied the plan. We are still waiting for Canada’s response on this issue. Decades of ongoing occupation have seen numerous violations of Palestinian human rights allowed to continue without consequence. For example, Canada’s non-recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights carried no consequences. Instead, impunity appears to be winning the day while violations of international law continue unchecked.

We call on the government of Canada to:

  • publicly condemn the plans of the government of Israel to annex any and all parts of occupied Palestinian territory;
  • publicly denounce the United States administration’s “Peace and Prosperity Plan”, which explicitly supports this illegal annexation plan;
  • work with the European Union and like-minded allies to take all diplomatic and political actions available to hold the government of Israel accountable for violations of international law, including annexation of any and all parts of the occupied Palestinian territories;
  • take all diplomatic and political actions available to enforce the rule of law without exception regarding violations of international law; and
  • protect the human rights of Palestinians, including their right to self-determination, and to resist occupation and annexation.

The choice is to acquiesce in the face of significant, sustained human rights violations, or to join with those who condemn and work to end those violations. Our choices define us as people and nations. It is our prayer that Canada will choose to be a nation that does not remain silent in the face of illegal actions, but will work alongside other nations to uphold human rights and international law.

We look forward to Canada’s prompt response in this regard. We offer our prayers for the healing of the Earth and all its inhabitants.

Yours sincerely,

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Primate, The Anglican Church of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Rev Ian Ross-McDonald
General Secretary, The Life and Mission Agency, Presbyterian Church in Canada

Nora Sanders
General Secretary, The United Church of Canada

George Bartlett
Chair, United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine & Israel

Jennifer Henry
Executive Director, KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Rick Cober Bauman
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Rula Odeh
Chair, Canadian Friends of Sabeel


The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, P.C., M.P.
[email protected]

Conservative Party of Canada
The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition,
[email protected]
Leona Alleslev, [email protected]

New Democratic Party of Canada
Jagmeet Singh, [email protected]
Jack Harris, [email protected]

Green Party of Canada
Elizabeth May, [email protected]
Jo Ann Roberts, [email protected]

Bloc Quebecois
Yves-Francois Blanchet, [email protected]
Stephane Bergeron, [email protected]

Her Excellency Deborah Lyons, Ambassador of Canada to Israel,
[email protected]

Robin Wettlaufer, Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority,
[email protected]

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, Chief of Staff, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
[email protected]

Global Affairs Canada
Troy Lulashnyk, Director General, Israel, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt and Maghreb,
[email protected]

Christie Neufeldt, Program Coordinator, Public Witness and Advocacy, The United Church of Canada,
[email protected]

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”