Gurpreet Singh: B.C. government’s decision to ban Russian liquor exposes its doublespeak on human rights

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      Premier John Horgan and the opposition leader, Kevin Falcon, might disagree on number of issues, but the recent developments in faraway Ukraine have brought them on the same page.  

      In the light of Russian attack on an Eastern European nation, Falcon asked for a ban Russian alcohol from B.C. liquor stores. Horgan did not waste his time and promptly agreed. The two political rivals were then happy to pat themselves in their backs for scoring a point by standing up for the rights of Ukrainians.  

      Canadian politicians of all stripes are almost unanimous in their criticism of “tyrant” Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Rallies upon rallies are being held across Canada in solidarity with the people facing Russian onslaught on the ground.  

      However, such massive outrage remains missing whenever Palestinians come under attack from Israel. Even as the Israeli occupation of Palestine continues for years, Canadian politicians have largely looked away. B.C. politicians are therefore no exception.

      Even the NDP government, which has many members from a labour background and trade unions that often preach international solidarity chose to ignore their cause.  

      So much so, the ongoing demand for banning Israeli wines from B.C. liquor stores has been conveniently overlooked. In fact, pro-Palestine activist Hanna Kawas, who has been picketing outside liquor stores for months as part of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, was told by someone in the government that it was a question of “free choice”.

      Wow. That unwritten rule appears to have been thrown out of window in support of Ukraine. For the record, the then B.C. Liberal government did not ban U.S. liquor back in 2003 when our neighbours next door attacked Iraq. 

      In contrast to the Ukrainians who are departing Canada and travelling back to defend their homeland and being portrayed as heroes, BDS has mostly received hostile press. Palestinians trying to rise up against repression remain potential terrorists in the eyes of many Canadians, whereas Ukrainians' resistance is being romanticised.  

      If this doesn’t display the doublespeak, then what does?  

      Nevertheless, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Most B.C. politicians of Indian origin have also remained silent on the repression of the Indian state on people of Kashmir and other parts of that nation. The attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, have grown under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi, but neither Horgan nor his Indo-Canadian colleagues have ever dared to stand up against brutes in India except once during the recently concluded farmers’ agitation.

      Thousands of farmers protested outside New Delhi against unjust farm laws, which were finally revoked after their yearlong struggle in 2021.    

      The only argument they offer is that it is a federal matter.   

      Why such selectivity? I have no answer. Is it racism as Ukrainians are Europeans and Palestinians and Indian minorities aren’t?

      Or is it because Israel and India have well-oiled propaganda machines with tentacles spread in Canada? Only Horgan or Falcon can tell.  

      Gurpreet Singh is a contributor to the Georgia Straight and cofounder of Radical Desi, an online magazine that covers alternate politics. He has recently wrote a book, Notes on Nineteen Eighty Four, which looks into growing polarization in the world's so-called largest democracy.