Lawsuit against Canadian government seeks to halt arms exports to Israel

A group of Canadian and Palestinian applicants have commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court against the Canadian government to stop arms exports to Israel.

The applicants are seeking a court order that the Government of Canada cease issuing export permits for all military goods and technology destined for Israel, and that the issuing of these permits be declared unlawful under Canadian and international law.

“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, one of the applicants.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of the near unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice on January 26, which found that a “plausible” case for genocide in Gaza was made out and reiterated that governments have the obligation to prevent genocide.

UN experts released a statement on February 23, warning that “any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law.” The group also urged governments to immediately halt arms transfers to Israel.

The lawsuit argues that the Export and Import Permits Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevent Ottawa from allowing Canadian companies to export military goods and technology to Israel, due to the substantial risk that these items could be used to commit serious violations of international law and serious acts of violence against women and children.

The lawsuit lists Israel’s reported violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and its serious acts of violence against women and children arising from its military operations in Gaza and the West Bank, including the plausibility that Israel is violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

In the past weeks, people across Canada have demonstrated growing concern about the continued flow of arms from this country to Israel amid credible reports of serious violations of international law by the latter in the course of the conflict in Gaza. According to Rachel Small from World Beyond War, Canada’s arms exports to Israel have actually spiked dramatically during the conflict.

“Despite recent statements by Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Joly denying that Canada was exporting any weaponry to Israel, the Trudeau government had in fact authorized at least $28.5 million worth of new permits for military exports to Israel during the first two months of the state’s bombardment and starvation of Gaza, more than in the entire previous year,” said Small.

As a result, people across Canada are escalating their demands for an arms embargo. Small noted that last week, hundreds of people held blockades at seven weapons facilities and companies that produce military components and weapons systems that are being used by the Israeli military. “In both the courts and the streets, it is critical to hold the Canadian government to account until the flow of weapons to Israel ends,” she said.

The lawsuit is part of a growing trend of similar lawsuits filed in countries like the US, Britain and the Netherlands, where an appeals court found that “it is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law”. Other countries like Spain, Italy and Belgium have also suspended arms sales to Israel due to the ongoing atrocities.

The lawsuit follows a letter sent by the applicants in January that notified the government that approving the export of Canadian military goods and technology destined for Israel violates both Canadian and international law. The letter demanded a response from Canada confirming that it had stopped this illegal activity within fourteen days. After receiving no response, the applicants commenced legal proceedings.

“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,” said Ayman Oweida, another one of the applicants.

The applicants are represented by a team of lawyers including Barbara Jackman, C.M., James Yap and Veromi Arsiradam.

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