By David Sweet, Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale MP
Last week, I travelled to Israel as part of a delegation of Canadian Parliamentarians (three Liberals and three Conservatives) to see first-hand the situation in Israel as they defend themselves from the daily barrage of Hamas rockets.
Let me say up front that we regret the loss of life on both sides of this conflict and hope that this Monday’s ceasefire will hold, allowing the process of peace to begin again. As everyone knows, the situation in the Middle East is a complex one and has been for generations.
However, let me also be clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, the U.S., the E.U. and others. The Hamas Charter speaks of the killing of Jews some 12 times. This is absolutely alarming and outrageous.
So far this year alone, Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel in addition to thousands more fired at Israel since 2001. But even worse, the leader of Hamas lives in a luxury five-star hotel in Qatar while the people of Gaza are used as human shields protecting Hamas weapons stockpiles. Just before the long weekend, President Obama expressed the world’s frustration that Hamas broke last week’s ceasefire that had been brokered by his Secretary of State and the United Nations.
This is a disturbing situation for all sides as was evident on the ground in Israel. Our delegation visited communities fortified in preparation for attack, talked to psychologists about the trauma of continual rocket fire since 2001 and travelled within two kilometres of the Gaza border – as close as we could get before the risk was too high for civilians, but close enough to hear the chilling sounds. A fellow MP extended his trip the next day to meet with Palestinian officials.
It was an experience I won’t soon forget. As chair of the Canada-Israel Inter-Parliamentary Group I am monitoring the situation closely and pray for a lasting ceasefire.
I’d also like to highlight a couple of other federal announcements that took place in July.
On July 22, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety was in Hamilton to announce the removal from Canada of 20 convicted members of the Domotor-Kolompar human trafficking criminal organization that operated in our local area – enslaving its victims from Hungary through forced labour, deplorable conditions, inadequate food, repeated attacks and intimidation. It was the largest human trafficking ring in Canadian history – operating literally in our back yard of Ancaster!
Also in early July, a new state-of-the-art federal lab opened at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters on the Burlington Bay. The lab is a key part of our ongoing strategy to protect Canada’s Great Lakes from the threat of invasive Asian carp.
The new lab allows scientists to rapidly test samples collected in Canadian waters, right here, rather than shipping samples outside the country for analysis. By getting test results in a matter of hours instead of days, we are saving both time and money in the monitoring needed to prevent Asian carp entry.
On a final note, I’d like to ask all motorcycle enthusiasts to circle your calendars for Saturday, Sept. 13. That’s when the annual motorcycle ride that I host in support of Liberty For Youth will be taking place. The ride starts at 10 a.m. at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and ends there in the afternoon. More details available at www.libertyforyouth.org