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Federal government appealing court decision on Israeli settlement wines

Last Updated Sep 7, 2019 at 4:45 am MST

A man pours a glass of wine at a vineyard in Chile on Jan. 25, 2014. A Federal Court says labelling West Bank wines as products of Israel is misleading and deceptive. The court ruling today orders the Canada Food Inspection Agency to decide how the wines should be labelled in the politically charged case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Luis Hidalgo
Summary

In July, the Federal Court ruled wines made on West Bank settlements cannot be sold as products of Israel

Lawyer Dimitri Lascaris said the appeal has no grounds, and accuses the government of caving under lobbyist pressure

Lascaris said Canadian laws are clear, that wines must have proper country of origin labels

OTTAWA (660 NEWS) — The Canadian government has launched an appeal after a court ruling in July regarding wines made on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In July, the Federal Court ruled settlement wines labelled as ‘Product of Israel’ are “false, misleading and deceptive” as they are made on occupied Palestinian territories.

After backlash from lobby groups, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has launched an appeal through Attorney General David Lametti, asking the Federal Court of Appeal to strike down the ruling.

The case originally dates back to 2017, when Winnipeg-based Dr. David Kattenburg lodged a complaint against the CFIA about two wines produced in the West Bank, arguing the labels were false and in violation of consumer legislation.

The Federal Court eventually agreed, adding that the labels “contravene the requirements” of consumer packaging laws and the Food and Drug Act.

Now that an appeal is being launched, the lawyer who represented Dr. Kattenburg accuses the government of caving to lobbyist pressure.

“It is facilitating the theft of Palestinian land,” Dimitri Lascaris said. “If somebody doesn’t want to buy a wine from an illegal Israeli settlement that constitutes a war crime, then they’re entitled to know where the wine came from so they can make a decision of conscience.”

Lascaris said it was a robust decision and respectful of international laws.

The international community considers the establishment of settlements on occupied land as illegal, violating a section of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Despite claims from Israel that they are not in violation of the Geneva Convention, organizations such as the United Nations Security Council and International Court of Justice say the rule does apply.

Lascaris noted that even the Government of Canada recognizes the settlements are illegal.

“It has openly acknowledged, and to this very day on the Global Affairs website, that the settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a serious obstacle to peace,” he said.

Part of the appeal focuses on freedom of expression on the part of the wine producers, but Lascaris also dismissed that point due to the government openly standing against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement.

“They seem to want to squash our right to advocate on behalf of BDS by vilifying anybody who takes a stand that Israel should be subjected to peaceful economic sanctions just like any other human rights violator,” Lascaris said.

In believing that lobby groups are pressuring the government, Lascaris is concerned this sets a dangerous precedent.

“It raises serious questions about the integrity of this government and its commitment to a rules-based international order, which is something its very fond of claiming to have,” Lascaris added. “This is an affront to a rules-based international order.”

Lascaris will fight against the appeal in court and expect other human rights groups such as Independent Jewish Voices Canada to jump on board.

B’Nai Brith Canada also issued a statement after the appeal was filed, writing that they “welcome the Attorney-General’s move to appeal, which was the only reasonable option available to him in this case,” and will apply for intervener status.

In response, the CFIA provided this statement to 660NEWS regarding the current appeal.

“As a federal regulator, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency takes seriously its mandate to verify that food products and labels are truthful and not misleading. This is an important part of consumer protection.

The Government of Canada carefully reviewed the Federal Court’s decision issued on July 29, 2019, and has decided to appeal the decision. The grounds are laid out in the Notice of Appeal.

This includes two main reasons:

  • First, the Federal Court ruled that the standard of review that applies to the Complaints and Appeal Office’s determination is reasonableness. However, the Government is of the view that the Court did not apply this standard. Instead, the court applied a stricter standard.
  • Second, the Court found that CFIA’S Complaints and Appeals Office should have considered the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (freedom of expression) in determining whether “Product of Israel” met the regulatory requirement of including a “country of origin” on the label, but had failed to do so. The Government is of the view that the Complaints and Appeals Office considered and weighed relevant Charter values and the statutory and regulatory objectives in arriving at its decision.”