Open Letter to Government of Canada, Cities of Vancouver and Montreal re CanaDanse Festival in Israel

Your shameful position does not represent us or our constituent groups.

New Article in Palestine Chronicle on updates for Ballet BC campaign.

The Canadian BDS Coalition sent the following letter on December 18, 2018 to:

Pablo Rodriquez, Federal Minister of Heritage
Ambassador Deborah Lyons, Canadian Ambassador to Israel
Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver
Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal


Open Letter from Canadian BDS Coalition to Government of Canada, Cities of Vancouver and Montreal

We have become aware that you are listed as one of the official sponsors of the CanaDanse Festival, being held in Israel in January 2019. Promotional material on the venue’s website denotes the Government of Canada as a sponsor of the whole Festival while the cities of Vancouver and Montreal are sponsoring one segment respectively. You should be aware that there is an ongoing campaign regarding Ballet BC’s involvement in the Festival, along with the 2 other dance companies, Shay Kuebler-Radical System Art from Vancouver and Le Carré des Lombes/Danièle Desnoyers from Montreal.

Over 5000 people have already signed a petition to Ballet BC asking them to cancel their first-ever performance in Israel, and to not help Israel whitewash its crimes against the Palestinian people. There has been coverage on the U.S. website Mondoweiss about this issue and also coverage in Canadian local media.

In fact, support is increasing amongst the Canadian public for sanctions against the state of Israel until it complies with international law, despite the efforts of the political establishment to suppress such information. A recent EKOS survey found that seventy-eight percent of Canadians said they believe the Palestinians’ call for a boycott is “reasonable”, and two-thirds (66%) of respondents viewed government sanctions specifically on Israel as “reasonable.”

It is shocking that various levels of government, federal and municipal, including the Cities of Vancouver and Montreal, felt compelled to not only lend their names to this Festival, but we assume funding as well.

Although Ballet BC and the other two dance companies will be welcomed by Israeli authorities to perform there, you should be aware that Palestinian cultural figures, artists and writers are routinely denied entry to their own homeland. One recent case is that of Susan Abulhawa, prominent Palestinian author who was detained and deported by Israel on November 1, 2018 on her way to a literary festival. Cultural exchanges that are predicated on silencing certain voices do not serve the values Ballet BC (and presumably your government) claim to uphold: “Ballet BC serves as a cultural ambassador, inspires diverse communities through dance and promotes inclusion in and through all that we do.” There is no inclusion for most indigenous Palestinians, who cannot even visit their homeland, let alone return to live there.

The Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Deborah Lyons, has already used the CanaDanse Festival to state: “Canada and Israel are truly best of friends”; we are sure more euphemisms will follow during and after the performances to help cover up the horrors of what the Israeli state is doing to the Palestinian people. This is the essence of art-washing and this is why an increasing number of global artists are saying that they will not perform in Israel until it complies with international law and respects the rights of the Palestinian people.

Your shameful position does not represent us or our constituent groups and we are appalled that you speak in our names and use taxpayers’ money to promote the suppression and dispossession of an entire people. We call on you to immediately withdraw your government sponsorship and cancel your participation in this Festival, which will only be used by the Israeli government to obscure the injustices happening right now to the Palestinian people.

Otherwise, history will not look kindly on your actions.

The Canadian BDS Coalition


November, 2018
Dear Mr. Clark:

We are writing to request that you reconsider your decision to send
Ballet BC to Tel Aviv.

What does ballet have to do with the military occupation of Palestine
and the cruel oppression of its people?

Decades ago citizens from around the world boycotted apartheid South
Africa. The cultural boycott played a major role in raising awareness
about the plight of black South Africans.

Today Israel is an apartheid state which flouts international law with
impunity. It tries to divert attention from its crimes against
Palestinians by promoting arts and culture. Palestinian artists,
however, are restricted from leaving their homes to perform.

Such diversions cannot work. Many artists and entertainers have joined
the boycott. Personally, as much as I love Ballet BC, I will not be
able to attend another performance if the Tel Aviv concert goes ahead.

In the name of ending the occupation and the violence toward
Palestinians we ask you to cancel your performance in Tel Aviv.

Help shed light on the suffering and injustice; join the boycott.

It is the honourable thing to do.


Frances Baskerville
CAIA Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid