Thoughts on the Green Party of Canada BDS motion

I represented the B.C. Green Party at the Green Party of Canada (GPC) convention in Ottawa, but I did not support the Palestinian Self Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution.

This policy will not contribute to solving the challenges in the Middle East. In fact, applying BDS tools specifically to Israel undermines Green values, which are fundamentally a commitment to bring people together from both sides of an issue, to negotiate and bridge divides.

Boycotts, divestments and sanctions are legitimate tools for governments but their specific application cannot be properly decided on the plenary floor of the GPC convention. This was emotional not informed decision-making.

Political parties should develop their own political philosophy, and support and defend it through policy. While social justice is a core principle of the Green Party, the Party is not primarily a social justice organization.

Social justice advocacy groups have a significant role in our society. Green Party members are important members of these organizations, but it is misguided to think that any Green Party should have a practice of formally endorsing these groups. It is not the role of a political party to adopt another group’s agendas no matter how valid and important their aims. Political parties need to focus on governing.

The fact that this policy has divided the GPC is evidence enough that it is not an effective tool for building consensus and making peace. The GPC should be having these important foreign policy discussions but we should be careful when pointing fingers.

That takes me to another more personal issue I have with the adoption of this policy. As one of the only First Nations people at the convention I am compelled to highlight the irony that many of the well-meaning people in the room missed.

The GPC opened the convention with a statement that it was hosted on unceded Algonquin territory. We often use these statements to acknowledge Canada’s Indigenous land settlement issues, seemingly a step toward reconciling our historical and current conflicts. This resolution served as a reminder that we are largely unprepared to deal with our own outstanding issues in a meaningful way.

Despite our desire to have an opinion on global issues, frankly, I don’t think Canadians are in a good position to point fingers on this one. I’m not saying we have to solely mind our own business. I’m saying we have to at least mind our own business, and we aren’t.

The fact that Canada has unresolved land settlement issues does not negate the need for sound foreign policy, nor should it mute our voice in the international discussion. Our position, particularly with settlement conflicts, however, must be placed within the context of our own blighted history.

Canada is still not dealing adequately with indigenous land issues. First Nations are forced to defend their rights in the courts at an astronomical cost to themselves while in many of these cases it should be the Government of Canada that is compelled to defend its actions.

Is the government stepping up proactively on the hundreds of recommendations from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—or will Indigenous people have to settle these issues in court as well?

I live on an Indian Reserve. It was a blunt tool used to clear land of Indigenous people to create settlements. In British Columbia this was done both forcibly and subversively and without the benefit of treaties. As a result, we have seen one Supreme Court case after another come down on the side of First Nations, yet there is little change and the cases continue to pile up. The social and economic impacts of these unnecessary legal battles are unacceptable.

Policies are not merely ideas and hopeful solutions. The BC Green Party recognized this after the 2013 election and has developed a higher level, values-based policy development process. New BC Green policies must be broadly and easily applicable and must provide our MLAs with a set of strong values, clear direction and flexibility to apply it to diverse and unique situations.

I recommend the GPC take another look at their policy process and get out of single issues and deal with the wider concerns that can be applied more generally. If not their policy book will look like a running commentary of the current pressing social justice issues of the day.

Adam Olsen

Stellys Cross Road, Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J7