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Israeli cabinet minister's unofficial visit comes amid strained relations

Last Updated May 25, 2023 at 1:59 pm MDT

The Israeli flag flies with the Peace Tower in the background on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 21, 2002. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

OTTAWA — An Israeli cabinet minister’s plan to visit Canada next week comes amid an already turbulent relationship between Ottawa and that country’s far-right government.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli is scheduled to speak at a private Christian college near Toronto next week and attend a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel on Parliament Hill.

But the trip was not arranged through official diplomatic channels, which two protocol experts say makes it “unusual” and creates a risk of incidents that could embarrass both the Canadian and Israeli governments.

Global Affairs Canada says Chikli’s trip is a private visit, not an official one, though the experts say it’s uncommon to have a foreign minister speak at a public event without going through the protocol office.

The Liberals are also raising concerns about Chikli’s speaking engagement at Canada Christian College, which is run by an evangelical preacher who was condemned by the Ontario legislature in 2020 for “extreme and hateful” language.

Canada says Israel remains one of its closest friends, but Ottawa has been increasingly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s moves to constrain the power of judges and allow more settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.

The Canadian Press