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Canadian activists call for global boycott of Air Canada over its outsourcing to Israel Aerospace Industries

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Its not just the Canadian government that is complicit with Israeli apartheid . . .

In recent months, Canadian government officials have been working overtime to further cement their outrageous and biased support of Israeli policies. One example is the January 18, 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries that committed to develop  “a coordinated, public diplomacy initiative both bilaterally and in international and multilateral fora to oppose boycotts of Israel, its institutions, and its people within three to six months”.

This was quickly followed with the Canadian ‘Public Safety’ minister stating at the United Nations that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement”. And the controversial and draconian Bill C-51 now making its way through the Canadian parliament is another ominous sign on the horizon; pro-Palestinian activists are fully aware that all of this will require increased determination in order to continue promoting the Palestinian struggle for human and national rights.

In this context, activists from BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish started a campaign last month to boycott Air Canada, the leading airline in the country. The original impetus was reports from supporters that Sabra Hummus was being served on Air Canada flights. Sabra Hummus has already been an issue of controversy on university campuses in the U.S. and Canada (University of Ottawa) because of the deplorable human rights record of one of its partner companies, Strauss Group. Strauss is the second largest Israeli food and beverage company and is known for supporting two Israeli military units implicated in human rights abuses, the Golani and Givati brigades.

However, further research (like peeling the layers of an onion) revealed that the links between Canadian business leaders and Israeli apartheid run deep. In fact, Air Canada recently signed a maintenance agreement for its B787 jets with Israel Aerospace Industries IAI, a military defense company wholly owned by the government of Israel. IAI is the subject of boycotts across Europe and is well-known for its drone technology and production.

Corporate Watch in the UK says that “IAI was one of the earliest developers of drone technology and launched its first surveillance drone, the IAI Scout, in 1979…IAI writes on its website of its drones ‘unsurpassed track record of over 1,200,000 operational flight hours for over 50 users on five continents’. According to Drone Wars UK, IAI has exported their UAVs, sometimes through joint venture agreements, to various European countries as well as South America, Australia, Canada and India and the company has a growing market in Africa.”

And a recent study entitled “Sleepless in Gaza” by Dr. Atef Abu Saif, Al-Azhar University in Gaza, has detailed the terrifying impact of drone warfare on the Gaza Strip, especially on children, and states – “Since their first use in 2000, drones have led to the death of hundreds of Palestinians and have injured thousands more. In addition, they have directly negatively impacted Palestinian psychological and social life, as well as causing a grossly negative impact on education.”

Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada’s CEO, was part of PM Stephen Harper’s delegation to Israel early last year, along with other top Canadian business moguls. Of course, there is plenty of precedent here, most notably with the Heseg Foundation program created and sponsored by Indigo-Chapter’s CEO, Heather Reisman. Heseg (also known as the Lone Soldier program) offers financial support and scholarships to individuals who have no family in Israel but decide nonetheless to join the Israeli army – an army of occupation.

It is truly shameful that Air Canada is “outsourcing” its maintenance work to this Israeli defense company that is directly responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians and has the blood of Palestinian children on its hands. BDS Vancouver called on supporters in its recent fact sheet, done up for Israel Apartheid Week at local campuses, to send the message that Palestinian rights and lives matter & Israeli government abuses of international law will not be rewarded with our travel dollars!

More info at: Boycott Air Canada: Tell Them We are not On-Board with Human Rights Violations

Marion Kawas

Marion Kawas is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist, a member of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish and cohost of Voice of Palestine.

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33 Responses

  1. John Salisbury on March 7, 2015, 12:15 am

    Ruined my day reading this.

  2. MRW on March 7, 2015, 1:45 am

    Canadians can’t maintain their own planes?

    • Walid on March 8, 2015, 9:48 am

      “Canadians can’t maintain their own planes?” (MRW)

      Of course they can, MRW, but their unions are taking them to the cleaners. About 7 years ago, Air Canada spun 3,000 out of its 5,000 mecanos into a privatized MRO company “Aveos’ to handle its maintemance, repairs and overhauls. A couple of years back, Aveos fell into receivership and the mecanos fell out of work with exception to a few that were taken over by companies that bought the liquidated assets. This new excercise with the involvement of the rogue Israeli company is a smoke screen to shaft those remaining mecanos.

      • Mooser on March 8, 2015, 1:34 pm

        And that was the union’s fault?

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 2:52 pm

        Of course not, Mooser, if not to an Israeli company, most probably the contract would have gone to another company just to get rid of most of its machinists. Air Canada had been flirting with this tactic for 3 or 4 years and it finally did it. The Canadian government of Harper has crimiinalized illegal strikes and taken away rights that the workers previously enjoyed. But there wasn’t any noise heard from labour federations about the contract going to Israel. A big stink was raised when the maintenance compamy that had been set up to take over 3000 machinists a few years ago bankrupt and most of the jobs were lost. For the upcomimg general elections this coming fall, the Liberal Party is promising to undo a lot of the controls set on the labour movement by Harper’s Conservatives.

        Interesting piece on the problems in Canada faced by the unions:

  3. Pixel on March 7, 2015, 3:17 am

    Thanks, Marion!

    Soooo, the boycott walked right through my front door the other day.

    A member of my family said they were keen on a ring they would like me to buy for them for a special occasion.


    The ring is made by a company called PRODESSO.

    Turns out it’s an Israeli company.

    They’re happily out looking for other gift ideas as I type.

  4. Pixel on March 7, 2015, 3:35 am

    I just hit the link to “Boycott Air Canada” and want to offer a suggestion.

    I have no idea how it’s done but,, and a bunch of other sites in the US that want people to sign their petitions have taken all the work, effort, and thought out of it.

    If they have any success at all, I’m convinced that, in large part, it’s because making things as EASY as possible gets folks on board. Not because people don’t really care but because they don’t have time.

    Here’s what happens:

    I get an email from say,, that has a link in it (or I click a link on a webpage). On the landing page, all I have to do is fill in my info and click “send.” If I’ve registered with the site, all my info miraculously appears the minute I arrive and all I have to do is click “send”. (I can also add a further comment in a blank box that’s right there, if I want to).

    How that’s done, I have no idea. But it’s the best!

    Harder to get it all done via the “Boycott Air Canada” page but I took the time and did it anyway. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to help out!

    • JulianaFarha on March 8, 2015, 6:35 pm

      I agree completely. I was involved in a successful campaign on another issue and I’m sure it was the simplicity of the process that helped galvanise people. I felt strongly enough about that issue – as I do with this one – that I also sent a letter to the company involved and I’m sure those letters helped but the low barrier to entry was key.

      On this question, I was really angry to read about this especially given Air Canada’s chokehold on the Canadian market. I live in London, England, and they are the only carrier that flies direct from here to Ottawa where most of my family live, which makes a boycott hard.

      These days Canada is barely recognisable as the place where I grew up, and I’ll be very surprised if a significant number of Canadians stand up on this issue. Instead, many people there seem content to watch Canada become marginalised in the international arena as a racist, hawkish state supporting other rogue nations based on a shared contempt for international law and human rights norms.

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 11:10 pm

        Juliana, next federal elections are scheduled for October 19th and an opportunity to change directions, if of course Harper doesn’t suceed in again barring the million ex-pats from voting by then.

        A couple of months back, Harpers’ people tried overturning a 2014 Ontario Superior Court ruling that the 1993 law barring ex-pats living out of the country for 5 years is unconstitutional, from the Globe and Mail Jan 5, 2015:

        “Feds fight to deny long-term expats right to vote as case heads to appeal

        Colin Perkel

        TORONTO — The Canadian Press

        Published Monday, Jan. 05 2015, 7:01 PM EST

        The right of long-term expats to vote in federal elections goes before Ontario’s top court Tuesday, as Ottawa fights a ruling that struck down part of Canadian voting laws.

        Barring Canadians from voting — in this case those who have lived abroad for more than five years — is a justified restriction in a free and democratic society, the government argues.

        “The residence limit to voting ensures the connection of the citizen to the place where he or she casts their vote,” the government states in its factum.

        “That is the social contract at the heart of our system of constitutional democracy.”

        In May last year, Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Penny ruled parts of the Canada Elections Act — enacted in 1993 — were unconstitutional.

        In doing so, he extended the vote to as many as one million Canadians living abroad — even though a sliver of that number would likely vote in, for example, this year’s federal election.

        For one thing, Penny ruled, expats may well be subject to Canadian tax and other laws. In addition, mass murderers have the right to vote, the judge noted, but not long-term expats, who “care deeply” about Canada.

        Pierre Poilievre, the minister responsible for democratic reform, tabled the Citizen Voting Act last month in an effort to tighten the voting rules for Canadian expatriates.

        It would require voters living abroad to provide proof of their identity, citizenship and past residence in Canada, and allow them to vote only in the constituencies in which they last lived.

        Ottawa, which sought unsuccessfully to stay the ruling ahead of last June’s byelections, insists non-resident Canadians need to have a “direct and meaningful” connection to Canada and their ridings in order to vote.

        As such, it began enforcing the five-year rule under which long-term expats could only regain the right to vote by resuming residency in Canada — not by just visiting.

        Two Canadians living in the United States launched the constitutional challenge after being denied a ballot in the 2011 federal election: Montreal-born Jamie Duong, 31, of Ithaca, N.Y., and Toronto-born Gillian Frank, 36, of Princeton, N.J., argued they had only left Canada for educational and employment opportunities.

        Both said they — in common with many other expats — still have a strong attachment to Canada and a stake in its future.

    • annie on March 8, 2015, 7:11 pm

      jvp does that too. it’s very effective.

      • JulianaFarha on March 9, 2015, 4:59 am

        Walid, you seem determined to turn Air Canada’s decision to contract out to an arms manufacturer supplying weapons used to commit war crimes into a platform for union-bashing. Frankly, I find this a bizarre and cynical sleight of hand, and I’m not buying it for a second. To me, this decision reflects the disdain for ethical decision-making and fair mindedness that increasingly characterise Canadian public discourse.

        On the election, my vote is meaningless if there’s no one to vote for. Justin Trudeau wouldn’t recognise a principle if it kicked him in the balls, and Mulcair’s equivocation during last summer’s Gaza siege was shameful. The pro-Israel braying from Canada’s right wing media, including the CBC these days, produced a moral vacuum where foreign policy used to live.

        Whatever Stephen Harper and his herd of Christian Zionist zealots claim to believe, Canada is on the wrong side of history on this issue, and a growing list of others.

  5. OneThatGotAway on March 7, 2015, 11:34 am

    I have family and friends in Canada and I will suggest that they avoid Air Canada. I am also a member of and hope that they will have a partner in Canada to get involved.

    • Walid on March 8, 2015, 9:24 am

      “I am also a member of and hope that they will have a partner in Canada to get involved -” (Onethatgotaway)

      Their Canadian partner is sister organization that also carries water for the Democrats is Avaaz. Move-On and Avaaz’ principals are also among the initial founders of J Street. I got off the Avaaz bus during Cast Lead.

  6. oldgeezer on March 7, 2015, 6:33 pm

    We recently booked 8 seats to vegas in a gew months and didnt even get a quote from air canada due to this. AC it is an easy boycott really. Once a source of pride and a premium service provider it has gone downhill over the last decade where it is now the highest cost, worst service option out there. Sadly due to our small size not all people will have options to pursue.

    • Walid on March 8, 2015, 9:04 am

      Oldgeezer, Air Canada is being unfairly judged here. In general, as a crown corporation, it has always been a great airline but for the last 20 years or so, its 5 labour unions have been dragging it down. From the 3000 pilots, to the 7000 cabin crews to the ground support group to maintenance, the unions had gotten out of hand, which has affected service and the cost of the ticket. I suspect farming out the maintenance to an Israeli company is one sneaky way that Air Canada is using to bypass one of its unions.

      • Kris on March 8, 2015, 1:26 pm

        @Walid: “Oldgeezer, Air Canada is being unfairly judged here. In general, as a crown corporation, it has always been a great airline but for the last 20 years or so, its 5 labour unions have been dragging down.”

        Seriously, Walid, blame the unions?

        The Harper government has been doing its best to undermine unions in Canada, just as the U.S. government has been destroying our unions for the past several decades. It is the “race to the bottom” strategy, wherein wealth is transferred from the people who actually do the work, to the elite who skim off the profits.

        Even though we know, from years of academic research, that vigorous union movements result in lower income inequality, safer working conditions, and generally better conditions overall in a society, we are being led, by the conservative forces that control our governments and mass media, to abandon unions.

        I know from my own experience, as a registered nurse, that if you are a patient, you are safer in a hospital with unionized workers. Why? Because with union protection, the nurses and other health care workers feel safe enough to speak out, loudly, about unsafe patient care practices, and to continue to speak out loudly until their concerns have been resolved. You have NO IDEA what a difference this can make–lives are at stake, and it is the workers, who are trying to do their best, not the administrators, who are trying to squeeze out more profits, who sound the alarm.

        That is why I stick to airlines with unionized workers, especially pilots and maintenance workers.

      • Mooser on March 8, 2015, 1:36 pm

        Thanks, Chris.

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 2:31 pm

        Kris, before you and Mooser cast an evil spell on me, I was not talking about unions in general but about the Air Canada unions. There are huge differences between nusrsing unions that you noted, which are always struggling to safeguard workers’ rights and those of Air Canada, which had gotten out of hand. In general, I’m inclined to side with the employers but in the case of farming out a good part of the maintenace to an Israeli company, my sympathy would be with the employees.

      • Kris on March 8, 2015, 4:14 pm

        @Walid: “There are huge differences between nusrsing unions that you noted, which are always struggling to safeguard workers’ rights and those of Air Canada, which had gotten out of hand.”

        Maybe you could provide a link to how the Air Canada unions “had gotten out of hand.”

        I am disappointed that you seem to have missed the point of my post: yes, nurses’ unions, like every other union, struggle to safeguard workers’ rights. Nurses’ unions also fight to safeguard the safety of the patients in their care. Whistleblowers in every workplace perform the same function, but workers who are afraid to speak up will not blow the whistle. In short:

        1. Unionization improves the quality of every society, as evidenced in study after study.

        2. You are foolish to entrust your safety to companies where workers can lose their jobs for speaking out.

        @Walid: “In general, I’m inclined to side with the employers…” That is an odd perspective for anyone who cares about public safety and human rights. There is no end to stories like these: and

        The people who are trying to make money are not that interested in protecting your health or safety.

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 5:06 pm

        Kris, you missed a point yourself in my mentioning the dirty trick of privatizing a company to absorb 60% of its machinists, only to have it bankrupt a few years later and for most of the remaining 40%, to terminate their employment by farming out the jobs to an Israeli company.
        As to the getting out of hand examples, I’m thinking back to years of incessant strikes at the drop of a hat; if you’ve been living there, you’d know what I was talking about.

      • Kris on March 8, 2015, 9:15 pm

        @Walid: “I’m thinking back to years of incessant strikes at the drop of a hat.” I wish you’d link to your sources, but, anyway, no union will strike “at the drop of a hat.”

        Union members are very reluctant to vote for strikes, because they lose their wages during strikes, and often even if the strike is successful, their losses may add up to more than the gains the workers achieve through striking.

        Maybe what happened was the time-honored union-busting technique of pushing the workers, through bad-faith bargaining or refusal to address worker concerns, until they are forced to strike. Then the employer can count on the mass media to place the blame on the workers.

        You know, those “news” stories about how union wages are too high, and about how much the strike is costing the employer, or how inconvenienced and annoyed the customers are. There will be few, if any, reports about the actual issues that brought the workers to strike.

        (P.S. Of course I didn’t miss your example about privatizing; naturally, I am opposed to all privatization. I always read your posts with great attention.)

        Here are links to strikes in Canada, including some Air Canada strike info: and

      • Kris on March 8, 2015, 9:42 pm

        In fact, Air Canada’s problems have resulted from executive mismanagement and difficult economic times, not from actions by the labor unions:

      • Mooser on March 9, 2015, 11:12 am

        “Kris, before you and Mooser cast an evil spell on me,”

        Too late!

  7. Misterioso on March 7, 2015, 6:46 pm

    A somewhat related matter.

    Despite not having contributed anything to their research and development, Israel has the contract for constructing the wings for the jinxed and grossly over-priced F35 jets that the Harper government is trying to shove down Canadian throats. The scuttlebutt is that because Herr Harper and his gang (known as the Texas North Neo-con Yahoo Party) are joined at the hip with Israel and serve as its apologist/protector, they are eager to guarantee that Canada purchases these lemons from the US. In short, Canadian taxpayers’ money will end up in Israel’s coffers while Canada’s economy continues to plummet.

  8. Hanna Kawas on March 8, 2015, 1:03 am

    If you want to stay updated and show your support for this campaign, please join the Facebook group:

  9. amigo on March 8, 2015, 8:31 am

    Good to know.I was planning a trip to Vancouver this summer.Obviously AC will not be taking me there.I had done some pricing late last year and AC came up the most expensive and not by a small margin.20 to 50 %.

    • Walid on March 8, 2015, 10:02 am

      Check again, oldgeezer, prices on Air Canada cheaper than on West Jet by about 16%

      • oldgeezer on March 8, 2015, 3:04 pm

        I assume you are correct and that you live in one of the top four or five cities as a case. AC is price competitive on major routes but it has gouged smaller routes with less competition to pay for it. That has been its business practice all along even when it was a crown corp. It still does it although for a lesser amount since the market opened a bot. I just looked at the vegas prices and AC is 30% more than WJ

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 4:28 pm

        Oldgeezer, I’m sure your numbers are better than mine. I understood AC to be using local feeders out of your area rather than providing the service itself, but I could be wrong. There’s no doubt about the gouging of the more distant areas to the benefit of metro areas. You’re also right about my being from a top city.

    • MRW on March 9, 2015, 7:05 am


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