Montreal MP Anthony Housefather chooses to stay in Liberal caucus despite anger over motion

Click to play video: 'Reaction to Liberals passing Israel-Hamas Motion'
Reaction to Liberals passing Israel-Hamas Motion
RELATED: After MP’s voted to pass a motion saying Canada will pursue the establishment of a Palestinian state, debates between political parties have ensued. Liberal MP Liberal MP Anthony Housefather joins Antony Robart with more on the issue. – Mar 21, 2024

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather said Friday he will remain in the Liberal caucus, despite the intense anger he still feels about a motion passed by the House of Commons last month.

Housefather has been reflecting on his next steps since the NDP-sponsored motion on the Israel-Hamas conflict passed with significant Liberal amendments on March 18.

“The adoption of the motion and all the events that preceded it have angered me as much as they angered most of the Jewish Canadians that I have communicated with,” Housefather said in a written statement late Friday afternoon.

“But I also know that my core values remain Liberal ones and after serious reflection I believe my greatest value to Canadians is staying in caucus to advocate for the centrist classical Liberal party that I believe in.”

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Housefather said he has had many long conversations with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent days discussing what he called “a massive problem of antisemitism right now in Canada” and what the federal government needs to do to combat it.

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“There is no issue more important to the Jewish community at this time,” he said. “This problem needs to be dealt with now.”

He said Trudeau asked him to work directly with him to address the problem, including when it comes to policing, antisemitism on university campuses and creating safe zones between demonstrations and community buildings.

Trudeau’s office said the prime minister had no statement on Housefather’s decision.

Click to play video: 'Montreal MP Anthony Housefather mulling his future with Liberal Party'
Montreal MP Anthony Housefather mulling his future with Liberal Party

The Israel-Hamas conflict will reach the six-month mark on Sunday.

Housefather, who is Jewish, has been among the most vocal MPs decrying pro-Palestinian protests, saying that demonstrators have intimidated Canadian Jews and implied they are responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.

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The original motion put forward by NDP MP Heather McPherson included a demand that Canada to “officially recognize the state of Palestine,” but did not contextualize it as part of a broader call for progress towards a two-state solution.

Housefather, along with most major Canadian Jewish organizations, criticized the motion as one-sided, saying it would reward Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the conflict.

Click to play video: 'Canadian MPs visit Israel'
Canadian MPs visit Israel

The NDP motion caused significant division among government MPs, even as high-level Liberals renegotiated its phrasing with the New Democrats behind the scenes.

The government ultimately proposed 14 major amendments, and all but three Liberal MPs, including Housefather, voted in favour. Conservatives voted against.

The final motion was very close to Canada’s existing Middle East policy. It recognized Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution within a peace process in the Middle East.

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It also added language calling for Hamas to lay down its arms, identified it as a listed terrorist organization in Canada and replaced language calling for Ottawa to “suspend all” military goods and technology trade with Israel with a paragraph calling for Canada to stop approving the transfer of “arms exports” to Israel.

Housefather said the amended motion was better, but he still couldn’t support it, and he expressed dismay that there was no time to debate the last-minute changes.

He said he would have preferred that the government vote down what he called a flawed NDP motion and simply introduce its own version later on.

Housefather said that over the last two weeks, he heard from thousands of people, within his riding and outside it, and he knows his concerns about the motion “are widely shared.”

But staying in caucus allows him to continue to advocate for the things he was elected to defend, he said, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, fiscal prudence, a principled foreign policy and a properly funded military.

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