Yesterday, Parliament debated, voted on and ultimately passed a non-binding motion from NDP MP Heather McPherson dealing with various issues pertaining to Palestine. 

The version that ended up being passed was significantly different from the one McPherson originally proposed, including altering clauses that would have called on the government to immediately recognize the State of Palestine and prevent any military goods being sent to Israel.

This is disappointing. But the problems didn’t start there, as the debate about the motion was also disturbing, filled with a combination of outright lies, assertions without evidence, victim blaming and what may ultimately amount to genocide denial. 

I’ve broken down some of the troubling statements — from the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP — into a range of categories and responded to them to help illustrate the problems plaguing Parliament months into Israel’s genocide. 

Israeli October 7 Deaths

There were many outright lies and distortions of the truth on this matter from a range of MPs. They indicate that the speakers are either several months behind on the news or intentionally lying.

For example, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman stated: “Mr. Speaker, on October 7, Hamas murdered, raped and tortured thousands. It murdered thousands of people.”

It is estimated that, at most, 1,200 people on the Israeli side were killed on October 7. As such, Hamas could not have possibly “murdered thousands of people.” There is no excuse for such a statement.

Conservative MP Michael Chong stated: “We condemn the atrocities of October 7, 2023, atrocities committed by Hamas against some 1,200 innocent Israeli civilians.” 

It has been known since October 7 that a significant number of those killed that day were not civilians in any sense of the word. Many were in the Israeli army, and killed in that capacity. 

In December 2023, AFP’s Jerusalem’s office reported, using a mix of sources including Israeli social security data, that 1,139 people were killed on October 7, 1,068 of them Israeli. AFP categorized 373 of the Israeli dead as members of “security forces” and 695 as civilians. This means that 35 per cent of Israelis killed were not civilians.

Going further, Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly said, “Hamas killed 1,200 people,” and Conservative MP Marty Morantz said, “On October 7, [Hamas] launched a brutal assault, killing some 1,200 Israelis.”

While the death toll here is incorrect, it’s also wrong to say that Hamas was behind all of the deaths, as has been apparent since October 7 but which has become clearer in recent months. 

In February, Reuters reported: “Israel has begun investigating possible breaches of the law by its forces during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 [...] following reports some Israeli civilians may have been killed by friendly fire in the fighting.” This came after families of some people killed in a kibbutz on October 7 urged the military to launch an investigation as they believed it was responsible for at least some of their deaths. 

In short, these MPs got the number of people killed wrong, the breakdown of the people killed wrong, and the breakdown of who was responsible for the killings wrong. 

Palestinian Deaths

One MP, Liberal Anthony Housefather, cast doubt on the number of Palestinians killed since October 7. He stated, “We are getting statistics, and the hon. member mentioned the figure of 30,000 from the Hamas ministry of health, but I do not know how accurate that is.”

The number comes from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, and Housefather choosing to describe it the way he did is a propaganda tactic never used almost anywhere else, including descriptions of Israel. For example, I can’t imagine Housefather ever referring to the “Likud Ministry of Health.”

More importantly, the numbers coming from the Gazan ministry have been widely accepted by governments abroad, international bodies and academic publications alike. In January, even Israeli intelligence officials said the numbers were reliable.

The only real issue with the numbers, which the ministry has made clear, is that they aren’t able to fully capture the number of deaths at this point. The future will likely show that the count we have now is less than reality, not more. This does not appear to be the point Housefather was making.

Israel’s ‘Right To Defend’ Itself

Conservative MP Michael Chong stated: “We support the State of Israel’s right to defend itself in eliminating Hamas as a threat.” This sort of language made its way into the revised version of the motion, with Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon successfully proposing the following to be added: “all states, including Israel, have a right to defend themselves.”

However, according to UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, “The right of self-defence can be invoked when a state is threatened by another state, which is not the case. Israel does not claim that it has been threatened by another state. [...] In particular, Israel cannot claim the right of self-defence against a threat that emanates from the territory it occupies.”

Albanese’s claim is based on a 2004 ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which focused specifically on the question of the right to self-defence and how it applies to Israel and Palestine. This point was also argued by South Africa in its case against Israel at the ICJ.

In addition, Gaza is considered to be occupied by Israel under international law. As Canadians For Justice and Peace In The Middle East has written, “Experts including United Nations fact-finding missions, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have concluded that Israel has not ended its role as an occupying power.” 

The debate also entirely failed to mention that, under international law, including UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43, those under occupation have the right to resist, including armed resistance. This right does not extend to killing civilians, of course, but Hamas did not solely kill civilians on October 7.


Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman described UNRWA as “an agency whose members actively participated on October 7, 2023.” Conservative MP Michael Chong said, “We cannot support providing humanitarian aid through an organization whose employees joined Hamas and participated in the October 7 atrocities,” referring to UNRWA. 

Lantsman and Chong offer no qualifiers to these statements, meaning they are presenting them as a fact. This is not the case.

It’s true that Israel has accused a tiny portion of UNRWA employees of taking part in the attack on October 7. However, Israel has offered no proof for this claim.

The claim has been denied by UNRWA, which also claims that some of its employees had been tortured by Israel into making false confessions. Some states that temporarily cut funding to UNRWA in light of the accusations, such as Canada and Sweden, have since resumed funding to the agency. Other states, including Portugal, Spain and Ireland, never cut funding to UNRWA in the first place, and actually increased their contributions. 

If Lantsman and Chong have some intel providing proof for their statement they should make it public. Otherwise, they are merely spreading a deeply suspicious statement based on no clear evidence and disguising it as a fact.

Hamas As Government

Several supporters of yesterday’s motion offered misleading statements on Hamas.

NDP MP Heather McPherson, who brought forward the motion, said, “Our NDP motion does not mean Canada would be recognizing Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization and it is not the government of Gaza. In fact, it is far from it.”

Hamas is the governing body of the Gaza Strip and won a majority of seats in the 2006 Palestinian election, the last one to be held.

Liberal MP Salma Zahid said, “Mr. Speaker, Hamas is a terrorist group, but it does not represent or speak for the Palestinian people. It should not and must not have a role in the future of Palestine.”

Not all Palestinians support Hamas. However, Hamas is the governing body in Gaza, and does enjoy support from Palestinians in other areas. 

For example, a December 2023 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll found that 60 per cent of Palestinians would prefer to see Hamas remain as the governing body in the Gaza Strip. About 72 per cent of Palestinians said they were satisfied with the role Hamas had played since October 7, compared to just 14 per cent being satisfied with the Palestinian Authority. In addition, 43 per cent of Palestinians said they support Hamas while just 17 per cent said they support Fatah.

It should not be up to Canada or anyone other than Palestinians to determine who would rule a unified Palestinian state. That should be decided in a free and fair election, and ultimately respected by other states. 

Finally, Canada designating Hamas as a terrorist group is not relevant to whether or not it can act as a governing body. Canada listed Hezbollah as a terrorist group in 2002, and the party has since been part of Lebanese governments. Canada maintains ties and diplomatic relations with Lebanon despite this fact.

Hamas To Blame

In what was perhaps the most shameful statement made throughout the debate in Parliament, Conservative MP Michael Chong said, “Hamas is what we should be focused on, not the State of Israel. Hamas is the only party to this conflict that is to blame for this conflict, that started this conflict and that can end this conflict.”

The idea that Hamas is solely responsible for starting the violence over the past few months completely ignores events that took place over the prior 75 years at least, which set the stage for the October 7 attack. This includes colonization, occupation and apartheid on Israel’s part, as well as a never-ending stream of violations of international law.

The statement that Hamas is solely to blame for events since October 7 was refuted in the ICJ’s preliminary ruling against Israel in South Africa’s application against the state. The ICJ found that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the [Genocide] Convention,” and that nothing Hamas has done or could do could justify Israel committing genocide. It also ordered Israel to abide by several measures, meaning it sees Israel as bearing a significant amount of responsibility for the past few months and having the power to end what Chong refers to as a conflict. 

With this in mind, there’s good reason for Canada to focus on Israel, especially because it’s one of Israel’s allies and could, along with the partnership of other states, help influence its behaviour or at least not contribute to the genocide. 

Chong would go on to state: “I am not aware of any international organization, the UN or any high court that has assessed that the State of Israel has committed war crimes since October 7, 2023.”

Chong should be deeply ashamed of himself. It’s not the public’s fault if he has been closing his eyes and plugging his ears since October 7, but an ever growing collection of international organizations and courts have stated: that Israel has committed war crimes or worse, that it’s plausible it has done so, and/or that they are investigating claims it has done so.

This includes: the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the World Health Organization, B’Tselem, Doctors Without Borders and so many others.