Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement on Saturday in honor of the first day of Hanukkah, and reaffirmed his country’s support for the Jewish people.
“I would like to send my warmest greetings to the Jewish community in Canada and around the world for a happy and peaceful Hanukkah,” Harper said.
“The story of Hanukkah reminds us that hope and faith can overcome any challenge and provide light in times of darkness. The nightly lighting of the menorah during Hanukkah commemorates the liberation of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple over 2,000 years ago, and the miracle of the oil lamp which lasted for eight full days in the reclaimed Temple, when it was only meant to last for one.
“Hanukkah also reminds us that, as Canadians, we are blessed to live in a safe and peaceful society, one which has been enriched by the countless contributions and achievements of the Jewish-Canadian community.
“During these challenging times, we reaffirm our commitment to stand by the Jewish people and we pray for peace during the holiday season and in the year ahead,” said Harper.
The Canadian prime minister is a longtime supporter of Israel and recently personally intervened to pressure Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to drop his bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.
Canada joined Israel and the United States on November 29 as one of only nine countries opposing the PA’s bid. The UN General Assembly backed non-member observer status for the PA by an overwhelming vote of 138 against nine, with 41 abstentions.
Baird took a prominent role in a debate before the UN vote, providing a direct and lengthy argument against the PA bid, and serving as a staunch ally to the Israeli government’s interests.
“This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No,” Baird said. “On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.”
Baird’s speech argued that the UN itself has repeatedly endorsed the rule that the only path to Middle East peace comes through negotiations – and that accepting the Palestinian Authority as a “non-member observer state” breaches that principle.
“It is for these reasons that Canada is voting against this resolution,” Baird said. “As a result of this body’s utterly regrettable decision to abandon policy and principle, we will be considering all available next steps.”