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Scheer says he will move Canadian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2019-05-07
Andrew Scheer wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Canadian Press Enterprises Inc

MONTREAL — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he will move Canada's Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv if he becomes prime minister.

The promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital reaffirmed a pledge Scheer first made more than a year ago but that pledge was silent on what that would mean for the Canadian Embassy there. It would put Canada in line with the Trump administration, which has already moved its embassy to Jerusalem, angering Palestinians.

Jerusalem is disputed territory between Israel and Palestinians and its status is a pivotal question in any peace talks.

"I will re-open the Office of Religious Freedoms and stand up for religious minorities all around the world. And I will recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," Scheer said in an unscripted moment of a major foreign-policy speech Tuesday afternoon.

As he exited a Montreal hotel ballroom followed by a phalanx of journalists, the Conservative leader was asked by The Canadian Press if that meant moving the Canadian Embassy.

Scheer replied: "That obviously would include making sure that Canada's representation there is in Jerusalem and we'd work with the government of Israel to accomplish those types of things."

Canada's official position on Jerusalem is stated on the Global Affairs Canada website: "Canada considers the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Canada does not recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem."

Then Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark promised to move the Canadian Embassy to Jerusalem in 1979, sparking recriminations against Canada at the time. Clark gave up on the idea after a special report he commissioned advised that the move could harm prospects for peace.

Scheer also called for Canada to join an American ballistic-missile shield and take a more aggressive attitude toward China.

Scheer's speech was a policy table-setter for the upcoming federal election, the first of several major statements of policy and principle the Conservatives say he will make in the leadup to the fall campaign.

He took direct aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau off the top, deriding Trudeau's 2015 declaration that "Canada is back" on the world stage.

"Canada had, in fact, not gone anywhere," Scheer said. "And the profound arrogance and self-importance of Mr. Trudeau's words foreshadowed how the new prime minister would conduct Canada's foreign affairs: Style over substance."

The Liberals fired back with their own statement before Scheer had even uttered a word.

"Whether it's Andrew's Scheer's endorsement of Brexit chaos, skepticism on climate change, corrosive rhetoric on immigration, or uncertainty on NAFTA, the Conservative plan amounts to risk and uncertainty that would hurt Canadians and our economy," said Liberal MP and Quebec campaign co-chair Pablo Rodriguez in a statement.

Scheer called Trudeau's trip to India last year "the most disastrous" ever by any Canadian prime minister. He also said a Conservative government would reset fractured relations with China and stand up to Russia.

"I will deal with China with eyes wide open," Scheer's prepared remarks said. "Although China is a primary, and certainly the strongest, propagator of authoritarian values, Russia remains a serious threat."

The speech said Russian President Vladimir Putin has returned his country to a "Cold War posture."

The speech said Scheer would join the U.S. ballistic-missile defence program — one that both previous Liberal and Conservative governments, including Stephen Harper's, chose to not to join.

The United States has gone ahead with the missile-shield program without Canada; it is designed to protect the continent from a long-range ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon.

Scheer's remarks made a passing reference to the challenges of dealing with a mercurial American president, but they largely shied away from any direct mention of President Donald Trump.

"The Canada-United States relationship transcends the personalities of those who occupy each respective office. And its longevity is crucial to our respective peace and prosperity. It must be strengthened."

The audience for the speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations included SNC-Lavalin, whose corporate name was affixed to one of the tables in the Montreal hotel ballroom where Scheer spoke and whose logo was on some of the event's posters.

Scheer has accused Trudeau of a cover-up in the ongoing controversy over whether the government should have given the firm a deferred prosecution agreement over the criminal charges it faces for alleged bribery in Libya.

Brock Harrison, a spokesman for Scheer, said the event was not a party fundraiser and the firm won't be giving the Conservatives any money.

He also said Scheer had no meetings planned with any SNC executives in attendance.

Two representatives of the Montreal council could not answer questions about the event, including the cost per ticket, and who would receive the proceeds.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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