I caught up with NDP MP Libby Davies today while she was on the road somewhere in this great country (she was rather vague on where), and while she is unfortuately nursing a bit of a cough at the moment (which she blames on the air conditioning from her hotel room in Halifax over the weekend), she was happy to let me know about what's been keeping her busy.
Q: You’ve had a very busy summer so far.
A: Yeah. Both Kim and I – my partner – are exhausted. We’ve been sleeping most of the day. We went for a walk, but as you probably know, we were in Copenhagen for the human rights conference for the Outgames, then we went to the Middle East, which was just so busy, getting up every day at five or six am and going the whole day, and then we went right back to the NDP convention, and then we left Halifax Monday, and just decided to drive around a bit and chill out. It’s what we’re trying to do.
Q: Tell me a little more about the trip to Gaza.
A: My blog posts on my website will give you a sense about what I did. If you start in Copenhagen, I give some sense of what I experienced at the Outgames and the panel I was on, so you might want to check that out. And then there’s a whole series of posts from the West Bank and Gaza from when we were there. The situation in Gaza is still very severe, and it was me and Richard Nadeau who went – the third MP, the Liberal, he didn’t come with us. He was in the West Bank with us, but not in Gaza, so it was just the two of us, and then three people from Code PINK including Kim Elliott, my partner. So it was just a small group. We think we were the first Canadian elected officials to visit Gaza since 2003, when Jean Chrétien was there. Now I was there in 2002, and for sure, since the war last December-January, and the bombing and the siege, there haven’t been any elected people from Canada. There have been from other countries, and in fact that’s been increasing, which is good. It was kind of surprised that we were the first to go back, but the situation on the ground, the blockade – the impact of the blockade is very severe on Gazan society. We did visit the tunnels on the last day, and got a sense of how everything has to come in illegally through these underground tunnels – there are about 700 of them. We were hosted by UNWRA, which is the UN Works and Relief Agency, which works in the West Bank and Gaza, and even they have a hard time getting materials in. They have money ready to build new clinics and schools, but they can’t get the construction materials because it’s illegal to bring them in. So they have money – in fact, there’s about $4.4 billion in international aid waiting to be spent through the UN, through the Palestinian authority, and none of it can be spent because of the blockade. I feel that’s a number one priority is to lift that blockade, so we need to put pressure on our government to do that.
Q: What’s left for you to do this summer? You’ve got less than a month left before Parliament resumes.
A: I’ll be heading back to Vancouver, and there’ll obviously be a lot to catch up on there. Hopefully people in my riding have been following along what I’m doing, what I’m up to, and they’ll know that I’ve been busy. But I’ll be heading back to Vancouver in a few days and catching up on everything and obviously getting ready for Parliament. But it’s been a very unusual and interesting summer. But I’m so glad that I went to Gaza. We went through a very circuitous route to get there, and it was touch-and-go all the time, and we actually were only there for 24 hours, and I think it was the most intense 24 hours of my life. It was well worth it, and I’m so glad that we have this direct experience on the ground about what they’re facing, that we can bring back and share with other members of parliament and Canadians in general. I’ll be doing some speaking, and I think the three MPs will probably write up some stuff, and follow-up, so that was the whole purpose of our trip – to see what was happening. We went to the West Bank as well and did lots of stuff there, including going the village of Bil’in, and the guy who’s in charge of the village actually came to Ottawa in June. I met him then, because they’re suing two Canadian companies that are expanding the settlement that’s on the other side of the wall and cuts off their village. It was very interesting to go and see his community – it’s just a small village of 1700 people, but he was in jail. He’d been arrested, but we just heard that he’s gotten out of jail. We met with other people in the village, and there’s a link in the blog – his name was Mohammad Khatid, and he was in Canada in June with his Israeli lawyer, Emily Schaefer, and he came to Parliament Hill and a couple of us met with him. So it was really good to go there, although we didn’t get to see him. We wanted to visit him in jail, and we asked to visit him, but we were told that it would take a minimum of ten days, so we went him a letter of support and greeting and told him to hang in there.