TORONTO — Ontario’s parliament rejected a bill that would have prevented the Canadian province from conducting business with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Provincial lawmakers on Thursday voted against the bill, dubbed the “Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act,” by a vote of 39 to 18. Liberal and left-leaning New Democratic Party members largely voted against the measure.
The bill was introduced by former Conservative party leader Tim Hudak and a Liberal member of the legislature, Mike Colle.
Colle asked his colleagues to support the bill, saying proponents of the BDS movement “try to clothe themselves in an aura of fighting for a just cause, [but] their core belief is a hate for Israel and a hate for everything Jewish.”
Speaking for the Liberal government, Culture Minister Michael Coteau argued the legislation would not improve security in the troubled region, reported the Toronto Star. New Democrat Peggy Sattler called it “an attack on freedom of speech and association.”
Arguing for the bill, Hudak called BDS an “insidious new face of anti-Semitism,” and lashed out at Liberals.
“Look, if somebody said they weren’t going to buy from a business because the owners were gay, you guys would go crazy,” he told the governing Liberals during the emotional debate on the bill. “If somebody said they weren’t going to buy from a business because they came from Pakistan or they’re Sikh, people would go nuts. But somehow, because they’re Jewish or from Israel, oh, it’s free speech all of a sudden? Come on.”
Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s premier, was absent for the vote, because she was on a trade mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Earlier in the week, she said, “I entirely oppose the BDS movement,” but added that freedom of speech is “something that all Canadians value and we must vigorously defend.”
Hudak conceded he did not know whether Ontario currently does any business with companies backing the BDS movement.