Two of the federal opposition parties that have been calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were invited on a recent trip to Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal but declined to go, CBC News has learned.
“I have the impression we would not control the message once we’re there,” Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet told journalists during a scrum on Parliament Hill on Tuesday.
“The mere presence of MPs going to Israel in the current context would risk not being viewed as a call for peace,” he said.
Blanchet’s party confirmed to CBC News in a statement that it received an invitation but did not follow up on it.
The federal NDP said MP Randall Garrison, vice-chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, was “asked to join the trip but was unable to consider last-minute travel that week due to previous commitments in the riding.”
The caucuses of both the NDP and the Bloc Québécois have been calling for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Gaza since a deadly attack on Oct. 7 by militant group Hamas that killed about 1,200 Israelis.
Meanwhile, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said some 14,000 people have been killed since the start of the fighting.
The interparliamentary group has 132 members representing all parties with official standing in the House of Commons, as well as some from the Senate.
2 MPs say trip sponsored by United Jewish Appeal
A delegation of 60 Canadians participated in a three-day trip to Israel last week. It included two MPs from the governing Liberal caucus, Anthony Housefather and Marco Mendicino, and three from the Conservatives: Marty Morantz, Melissa Lantsman and Michelle Rempel-Garner.
Housefather and Morantz confirmed to CBC News that their trips were sponsored by United Jewish Appeal.
“We were there offering support to Canadians who saw their family members murdered in a terrorist attack on Oct. 7, and we were there to learn about the experiences that Israelis have had in this horrible war, in this horrible incident,” Housefather said.
“I think it was well worth the trip, and I think we were showing solidarity with a Canadian ally.”
Lantsman walked past journalists without stopping to comment on Tuesday, but expressed similar thoughts while in Israel.
“I think it’s important that we show solidarity with the people of Israel for what happened on Oct. 7, for their resolve going forward, for the eventuality of rebuilding, and for the rest of the world, including those in Canada, to never forget this,” she said at the time.
The delegation met with survivors of the Oct. 7 attack who were displaced and, according to an official itinerary, also took part in “repair and return activities” and explored “the crucial role of philanthropy in rebuilding and restoring Israel.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East raised concerns about the optics of the trip, stating last week that MPs could have also visited Gaza and the West Bank.
Under parliamentary rules, members of Parliament who are not cabinet ministers or parliamentary secretaries are allowed to go on sponsored travel, but are required to disclose who paid for the trip within 60 days of their return.
Reached for comment, Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May said neither she nor the only other MP in her party were invited on the trip.
“I would not have accepted a free trip,” May said in an emailed statement to CBC News.