- Canadian victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture deserve access to justice through Canadian courts.
- The initiative to rescind immunity for states that perpetrate war crimes, genocide, torture and crimes against humanity is vigorously supported by the Jewish community.
- Canadian law must be safeguarded from lawfare, an insidious publicity stunt designed to delegitimize Israel with spurious, drawn-out lawsuits.
In November 2009, Private Member’s Bill C-483: An Act to Amend the State Immunity Act (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture) was introduced in the House of Commons. This bill sought to rescind immunity for states that perpetrate these heinous crimes, allowing them to courts. The aims of this initiative are noble and just, championing a cause the Jewish community vigorously supports. However, as previously constructed, the legislation would require significant changes to garner our endorsement.
Law is increasingly used as a tool to delegitimize Israel, a phenomenon known as lawfare. In lawfare cases, the judicial process is exploited resulting in Israel being attacked in the courts, even where there is no merit to the suit and little chance of winning the case. The purpose is to isolate Israel and to drain Israel and its supporters of financial resources and energy. This particular legislative initiative has so far failed to ensure it is not abused for these purposes, whether against Israel or other Canadian allies such as the United States.
This can be rectified with either a requirement for sign-off from the Attorney General to waive state immunity on a case-by-case basis, a specific country listing mechanism similar to the one in place for the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, or a provision maintaining state immunity for countries with which Canada has a legal extradition treaty. Additionally, the legislation should require a real and substantial connection to Canada to pre- vent “forum shopping”. In the Bil’in lawfare case in Quebec courts, even though the court rejected the plaintiff’s case, ruling that Quebec was not an appropriate forum, the hearings and appeals advanced an anti-Israel agenda.
Lastly, there must be a provision regulating the execution of foreign judgments in Canada. Canadian victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture deserve access to justice through Canadian courts. This legislation must first and foremost enable that access, ensuring state assets are not paid out to foreign plaintiffs, leaving nothing for Canadian victims to collect.