CanadaIsrael news photo: file

Canada advised its citizens on Sunday against participating in flotillas to Gaza.

In a statement released in advance of the one-year anniversary of the May 31, 2010 flotilla to Gaza, and in advance of the planned ‘Freedom Flotilla 2,’ Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said: “I strongly urge those wishing to deliver humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip to do so through established channels. Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza.”

Baird added that “Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.”

He also noted that “there are legitimate and constructive ways to help the people of Gaza. One way is to donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. The organization has people on the ground in Gaza to help deliver, among other things, clean water and health care.”

Canada is a staunch supporter of Israel. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked an initiative at the G8 summit to force Israel into final status talks based on accepting the 1949-1967 Armistice lines, with land swaps.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman later thanked Baird for Canada’s support, saying that Canada is a “true friend of Israel.”

In his statement on Sunday, Baird also mentioned kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

“I would note that Canada continues to call for the immediate return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for almost five years, to his family in Israel,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish IHH group, which stood behind last year’s flotilla to Gaza, said on Sunday that the opening of the Rafiah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza over the weekend would not stop the new flotilla from sailing.

“In the past, we went there for Gaza, but now we are going for humanity and the law,” IHH Head Bülent Yıldırım told the Turkish daily Hürriyet.