Group of Palestinian Canadians sues federal government to block military exports to Israel

Palestinian boys make their way through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 3, 2024. (AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by

Acoalition of Palestinian Canadians and human rights lawyers is suing the federal government to block Canadian military exports to Israel.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man — a Palestinian human rights organization — and a number of Canadians whose family members have been killed in Gaza. The news was first reported by the Toronto Star.

The plaintiffs are asking the federal court to order Ottawa to stop issuing permits for military equipment exports to Israel.

“It’s cruel and reprehensible that our government has continued to provide material support to Israel’s atrocities, while at the same time cutting off humanitarian support to the victims of those same atrocities,” said Hammam Farah, a member of the coalition behind the lawsuit, said in a news release.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly speaks to journalists in Montreal on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)© Provided by

The lawsuit specifically names Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Justice Minister Arif Virani.

The coalition said it wrote a letter to Joly calling for a halt to the export permits but didn’t get a response.

CBC News reached out to Joly for a statement but hadn’t received one at time of publication.

Israel was among the top 20 destinations for exports of Canadian military goods in 2022, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) insists Ottawa has not allowed exports of arms to Israel in decades. The department has told CBC News that a number of permits for “non-lethal” military equipment have been approved since Oct. 7.

“Canada has not received any requests, and therefore not issued any permits, for full weapon systems for major conventional arms or light weapons to Israel for over 30 years. The permits which have been granted since October 7, 2023, are for the export of non-lethal equipment,” a statement from GAC said.

Israel launched an air and ground offensive into Gaza after Hamas-led militants stormed across the border on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting around 250, the Israeli government said. Over 100 hostages were released last year in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Palestinian boys make their way through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 3, 2024. (AFP/Getty Images)© Provided by

Israel’s bombardment and military operations in Gaza have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The Israel Defense Forces says it has killed some 12,000 Hamas fighters since Oct. 7.

The lawsuit claims that by continuing to allow the sale of military equipment to Israel, Canada is violating its obligations under international law.

The applicants point to the International Court of Justice’s recent interim emergency ruling on South Africa’s claim that the war in Gaza amounts to an act of genocide. In its ruling, the court ordered Israel to take measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide in its war in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

The lawsuit argues that issuing the permits violates the Export and Import Permits Act, which states permits should be denied if there is “a substantial risk” that military exports would undermine peace and security or be used to violate international law.

“Canada’s contempt for international and Canadian law by approving a dramatic increase in military exports to Israel since the latter commenced its bombardment of Gaza compels us to seek legal action to hold Canada to account,” Ayman Oweida, one of the plaintiffs, said in the group’s news release.

CBC News has asked GAC to state how many permits have been approved since Oct. 7, but has yet to receive a response.

Similar cases have been brought forward in other countries, including the U.K. and the Netherlands.

UN officials warned last month that the transfer of arms or munitions to Israel for use in its campaign in Gaza would likely “violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately.”

“States must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition — or parts for them — if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law,” the officials said in a media statement.

Source: CBC News