Two Prince Albert city councillors sign open letter calling for feds to sign arms embargo on Israel

Three trustees, seven MLAs, and eight city councillors, including two from Prince Albert, have signed an open letter calling on the federal government to implement an arms embargo on Israel.

Prince Albert councillors Terra Lennox-Zeppa and Tony Head were among those who signed the letter. The list also includes NDP MLAs Meara Conway, Nicole Sarauer, Noor Burki, Jennifer Bowes, Matt Love, Jared Clarke, and Nathaniel Teed.

The Daily Herald attempted to contact Lennox-Zepp and Head, but did not hear back by press time. Lennox-Zepp defended the decision in a press release sent out on Monday.

“Israel’s assault on Gaza directly impacts people in communities across Saskatchewan who have lost family members and who want to see Canada working to secure a lasting peace in the region, not arming war crimes,” Lennox-Zepp said in the press release.

The House of Commons voted in March to stop all arms sales to Israel. The government says no new export permits were approved after Jan. 8, according to a report from CTV, but exports approved before that date continue to be sent.

The letter signatories argue that continuing to send exports, regardless of when they were approved, fails to respect the will of Canada’s democratically elected representatives, and fails to uphold Canada’s obligations to the international community.

“We have both a legal and moral responsibility not to arm Israel’s atrocities,” said Cheryl Stadnichuk, one of three Regina city councillors to sing the letter. “Our constituents in Saskatchewan, like people across Canada, want an end to Canadian complicity in Israel’s genocide.”

On March 26, United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese presented a report on Israel’s response to Hamas abducting more than 250 Israelis in October 2023, saying there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide … has been met.”

A number of country’s have questioned that report, including U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin who said in April he’s seen no evidence Israel is committing genocide.

The letter signors are among a growing number of organizations and groups demanding Canada immediately suspend all trade in weapons and military technology with Israel. The list includes the Canadian Federation of Students, Council of Canadians, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the United Church of Canada.

The open letter was addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and has caused distress in some members of Saskatchewan’s Jewish community. Rabbi Jeremy Parnes of the Beth Jacob Synagogue told the Regina Leader-Post he was “ashamed” to see so many officials sign the a letter that made no explicit mention of violence committed by Hamas, or how some pro-Palestinian actions have increased antisemitism.

“I would expect a greater level of responsibility from our elected officials,” Parnes told the Leader-Post. “They should be able to do a better job of actually holding the people to account and be representative of people.

“If they really want to see a resolution to this, they should be supporting peaceful coexistence of all peoples in that region.”

–with files from Larissa Kurz/Regina Leader-Post