Canadian Food Inspection Agency Delays Release of Potentially Embarrassing Documentation for Over Two Years
In March 2017, Dr. David Kattenburg filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regarding two wines produced in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements. Those two wines were being sold in Ontario with false “Product of Israel” labels.
On July 12, 2017, Dr. Kattenburg learned from a post on the Facebook page of B’Nai Brith Canada that, on July 6, 2017, the CFIA had directed the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to order its wine vendors to cease the sale and importation of these settlement wines due to the fact that their labels were false.
The CFIA immediately came under intense pressure to reverse itself from the Israeli government and its advocates in Canada, including B’Nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and Liberal MP Michael Levitt. As a result of that pressure, the CFIA reversed itself less than 24 hours after Dr. Kattenburg learned of the CFIA’s initial – and correct – decision to bar the sale and importation of these falsely labelled wines.
Since then, Dr. Kattenburg has filed an appeal with the Complaints and Appeals Office of the CFIA in which he argues that the CFIA has capitulated to pressure from Canadian lobbyists for the Government of Israel and that the CFIA is improperly refusing to enforce Canadian consumer protection law. More detail regarding Dr. Kattenburg’s appeal can be found here.
On July 14, 2017, Dr. Kattenburg sent a request to the CFIA pursuant to Canada’s Access to Information Act (AIA). In that request, Dr. Kattenburg sought, among other documents,
(1) Copies of all emails, letters, and other communications regarding his complaint to the CFIA between CFIA personnel, officials of the Canadian government, and Members of Parliament;
(2) Copies of all emails, letters, and other communications regarding his complaint between CFIA personnel, on the one hand, and representatives or agents of B’Nai Brith Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or other advocacy Canadian groups or organizations, on the other hand; and
(3) Copies of all emails, letters, and other communications regarding his complaint between CFIA personnel and representatives of the government of Israel.
Under section 7 of the AIA, the head of a government institution like the CFIA is required to give access to the requested records within thirty days after the request is received. The 30-day requirement is, however, subject to certain exceptions. One such exception is set forth in section 9 of the AIA, which provides that the head of a government institution may extend the time limit set out in section 7 “for a reasonable period of time” (emphasis added) if the request is for a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution, or if consultations are necessary to comply with the request that cannot reasonably be completed within the original time limit.
On August 17, 2017, Dr. Kattenburg received a letter from the CFIA in which it advised Dr. Kattenburg that it was taking a time extension of up to 800 days and that the revised due date for completing the processing of Dr. Kattenburg’s request is October 28, 2019. Notably, the next federal election in Canada is scheduled to occur on October 21, 2019 – one week before the CFIA’s revised due date for completing the processing of Dr. Kattenburg’s request.
As a result of the CFIA’s attempt to delay the release of these potentially embarrassing documents for an inordinate period of time, I have filed a complaint on behalf of Dr. Kattenburg with Canada’s Information Commissioner. The text of that complaint is reproduced below, in full. Continue Reading ›