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The director of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv has been in Israel since February 26

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press On Friday March 22, the Minister of International Relations, Martine Biron, declared that Alik Hakobyan had not yet left for Israel.

Contrary to what the Minister of International Relations, Martine Biron, said, the director of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv has been in Israel for a month, despite the conflict raging in Gaza.

Shows that it is “more important to do business” than to worry about the fate of “the 14,000 dead children” in Gaza, declared solidarity MP Ruba Ghazal. “There is an issue of trust, transparency and I would even say intellectual honesty on the part of the minister,” added the leader of the Parti Québécois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.

Following the publication of a text from Radio-Canada, Ms. Biron's office confirmed that the director of the Quebec Bureau in Tel Aviv, Alik Hakobyan, is indeed in Israel since February 26. However, the minister affirmed the opposite until Friday.

“He didn’t leave after all ?” a journalist asked him on Friday, after having first mentioned the postponement to October of the inauguration of the office due to the conflict. “Well, no one… well no,” replied Minister Biron. She later said: “He might come back and forth, but he's not going to settle there right away, we'll figure out when it's safe. » “The idea, when we are able to go there, [is that] the office will be in the Canadian embassy, ​​but currently, we work from Montreal,” the minister also attested.

In a letter tabled in the National Assembly on March 21, the minister also wrote that “the head of post works from Montreal”.

At the time she made these claims, Mr. Hakobyan was continuing his stay in Israel, which is scheduled to end on Wednesday, March 27. “Generally, we work from Montreal. But currently, the head of post is in Tel Aviv,” explained Ms. Biron’s press secretary, Catherine Boucher, on Tuesday. She added that Mr. Hakobyan was not “settled” in Israel and recalled that Ms. Biron tabled a motion in January, adopted unanimously, which demanded an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza. The minister was absent from the National Assembly on Tuesday due to a mission to California.

At the Salon Bleu, Prime Minister François Legault repeated that Mr. Hakobyan had gone to “make initial contact” in Israel. “I don’t see the problem,” he said, after Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon had insisted on Ms. Biron’s contradictions.

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“The minister is lying”

Ruba Ghazal, for her part, said she believed that the opening of this office made Quebec “look bad” internationally, in a context where “even Israel's eternal ally, the United States, is in abandoning the government of Israel” by abstaining from voting on a United Nations resolution that demands an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“I don’t understand why the minister is lying. Maybe she's a little ashamed. There is a dramatic, humanitarian situation happening in Gaza, and maybe for her it is embarrassing [to open] the office and [to act] as if nothing had happened,” he said. she said to the Duty.

“In Quebec we have a tradition of peace, of pacifism, and the [Coalition Avenir Québec] is breaking it to do business with Israel, as if it were urgent. So, I invite the minister to step back, to cancel the opening of this office, to follow what is being done internationally: many countries are abandoning Israel,” she added.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, for his part, said he was “shocked” to learn of the opening of the office, despite the minister's assurances. “In terms of confidence, it’s terrible. How can we have confidence now that during these statements, she knew that the head of post was in Tel Aviv ?” asked the PQ leader. His party asked the government to “suspend the deployment of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv.”

The Middle East Gate ?

For months, Minister Biron has been repeating that the Quebec government branch operates from Montreal. “We will wait until peace returns” to open the office in Tel Aviv, she said in November. She repeated on February 15 — therefore 11 days before Mr. Hakobyan’s departure for Israel — that the office was “currently based in Montreal” and that it constituted “the gateway to the Middle East.” The website of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv rather limits its mission to Israel only.

“The argument that the Tel Aviv office serves the entire region, while these are countries in obvious diplomatic tensions, she must also have known that that also does not hold water road”, underlined Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon.

Ms. Biron has also affirmed in the past that the opening of an office in Tel Aviv constituted “in no way” a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I don’t know in what world we can make this distinction,” said Ruba Ghazal. I understand that we can have offices in countries where we do not agree with the leaders. But when we have a population at risk of dying from famine, children dying, war crimes happening right now — and not just in the past — I don't see in what world continuing to do business with the government which commits these crimes can be interpreted as something other than support. »

Pascal Paradis, of the Parti Québécois, said he was of the same opinion. “Despite what the minister says, the fact that we deploy the director on the ground in Tel Aviv sends a signal,” he wrote on the social network serious questions regarding frankness and transparency.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116