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Jim Carr (2nd from right) at a major infrastructure project in Tel Aviv, led by Canadian architecture firm ibigroup
By BERNIE BELLAN
Following Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr’s return to Canada, we were invited to meet with the minister to discuss firsthand the results of his recent trip to Israel and the West Bank.
Here are some excerpts from that interview (which was conducted September 11):


JP&N: “I see that you spoke to an organization of gays and lesbians in Israel who are involved in the high-tech sector. It’s interesting that there’s a specific organization in that particular sector.”
Carr: “Yes – and they’re very active. It’s part of the unleashing of all this power that has been marginalized, including women. Only 10% of Canada’s export industries are owned by women, so we’re very anxious to make sure that potential is nurtured and given every opportunity to contribute fully and the same thing is true in the LGBTQ community. I also spoke to a major conference in Philadelphia led by that community. I spoke to 1300 people who were ready to go, make their pitches to suppliers…The world has changed.”

JP&N: “So they’re identifying themselves first as gay- lesbian – and not, say, as someone from a specific company?”
Carr: “Thy are – and very comfortable, and very excited to show the capacity within their companies to the supply chain worldwide and, of course, Canada’s a big supporter of that initiative, which is part of our progressive trade agenda.”
JP&N: “By the way, I see you helped establish a Canadian-Palestinian Business Council.”
Carr: “Yes, in Ramallah. The last time I was in the West Bank and Gaza was for the Palestinian elections that I covered as a journalist.”
JP&N: “In 2006?”
Carr: “No, in 1996.”
JP&N: “So, those would have been the first elections there.”
Carr: “Yes, and I traveled in a car from East Jerusalem with Sol Kanee who, at the time was treasurer of the World Jewish Congress. The purpose of that trip was to talk to the ‘Mukhtar’ of Deir ‘Ammar’ (which is near Ramallah), who happens to be the father of Mo Zeid, who owns the Food Fares in Winnipeg.
“He embraced Sol Kanee and Sol embraced him.”

JP&N: “I want to switch gears and ask you about this business with Dimitri Lascaris going after two Liberal Jewish Members of Parliament, where he strongly insinuated they are more loyal to Israel than to Canada. I would assume that all Jewish Members of Parliament are considered ipso facto to be pro Israel. Lascaris though said he didn’t even know you were Jewish. Has being Jewish ever put you in a bind where you felt you were somehow in a conflict position in Cabinet, having to decide whether you have ”dual loyalties?”
Carr: “No – and I can only speak for myself. I am not in Cabinet to represent Jewish interests to the Government of Canada, but I’m Jewish, so I bring with me my sensitivities, my sensibilities, who I am as a person – and who I am as a person is very much a product of how I was raised in the community in which I was raised and with which I still feel a very close association as early as today – when I was in synagogue. (The interview took place the afternoon of the second day of Rosh Hashanah.)”

JP&N: “So, when you met with Palestinians, did they know you were Jewish?”
Carr: “I was there with Mel Lazareck! We talked about the Arab-Jewish Dialogue. We talked about it in Tel Aviv; we talked about it in Ramallah.”

JP&N: “Let me bring in the problem of BDS. I told Lascaris (when I interviewed him) that one of the effects of the BDS movement was to force the shutdown of a very large Sodastream factory in the West Bank, which resulted in 250 Palestinians losing good jobs. I asked him whether that bothered him. (You can read what Lascaris had to say about that in my story about him on page 1.) Did you get any impression from talking to Palestinian businesspeople how they feel about BDS?”
Carr: “I can’t speak for them. I can only speak for the Government of Canada. We’re opposed to it (BDS). There was a resolution in the Parliament of Canada. We’re absolutely opposed to any restriction in the free movement of goods and services. The Israeli economy is humming. They’re among the most active nations in the world in start-up and innovation. They’re the envy…they’re a model. They have resources to invest in Canada, they have partnerships to forge with Canadian companies. The purpose of my visit was to deepen these contacts and I think there is tremendous potential to increase the economic activity between Israel and Canada. I see every possibility that will help to create jobs in Canada and help the Israeli economy – which is booming, at the same time.”

JP&N: “When I was reading the Global Affairs Canada release about your trip, I saw that the total value of trade between Canada and Israel was $1.7 billion, but Canada’s exports to Israel were only $450 million” (led by agriculture, fish and seafood products, according to the release). “In which areas then do you think Canada can increase exports to Israel? I noticed, for instance, that there was a picture of you visiting with a Nova Scotia architectural firm in Tel Aviv.”
Carr: “They have a design contract for a Tel Aviv subway station… Some of the areas in which there are possibilities for expanded trade include aerospace, defense industries – their technologies are well advanced; we have lots to learn from them; agriculture…there are five or six sectors in the economy where we already have trade and where trade can be deepened. Also, intellectual property, brainpower…tons of brainpower goes back and forth. We’re always looking to enhance contact among students who learn about each other’s country and, when they graduate, they have a special affection for that country.
“There’s a lot of affection in Israel for Canada. I met with a number of leading politicians, administrators and business leaders and, to a man – or woman, they were very grateful to Canada, for our support of Israel, and very keen to deepen economic ties, which was the principal reason for my visit.”