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 ›

Chrystia Freeland, George Soros and the Ethics of Evidence-Based Reporting

On September 4, 2017, Moscow-based reporter John Helmer published his latest in a series of articles on Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland. Entitled “Canadian Foreign Minister Freeland Hid Light Under Bushel Until Toronto Globe and Mail Exposé,” Mr. Helmer’s article explores the revelation in an August 16, 2017 exposé in Canada’s Globe and Mail that, at the time she entered Canadian politics, Freeland had a “deal” for a “sort of authorized biography of George Soros.”

At the end of his September 4 article, Mr. Helmer states that, in mid-August, I “commissioned” a report from him “on the new evidence on Freeland”. Describing me as a “Canadian politician” who “doubles as a reporter, interviewer and member of the Board of directors of The Real News Network” (TRNN), Mr. Helmer writes:

Lascaris recorded a 30-minute interview with me on August 21. At first he delayed its broadcast claiming he was “fact-checking”. Lascaris then claimed that Soros had issued a “definitive rejection” of the reported deal with Freeland, and cancelled the broadcast. He and his TRNN colleagues refuse to reveal the email exchange with Soros.

Lascaris added last week that he hasn’t had time to check with Freeland on her side of the Soros deal, or her Ukrainian sources of income and real estate. His reasons, he said, is that “both of my kids are leaving home to go to university and I am moving them into their new accommodations far from home. I am not going to drop everything and neglect my family’s needs to respond immediately to your email.”

Mr. Helmer has been instrumental in exposing skeletons in the Freeland family closet. Among other things, Helmer’s investigative reporting has helped uncover that Ms. Freeland’s grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi collaborator, and that Freeland misrepresented her grandfather’s sordid past when confronted with evidence of his Nazi sympathies.

Nonetheless, despite his journalistic contributions, Mr. Helmer’s account of his interactions with TRNN suffers from serious inaccuracies and omissions. Continue Reading ›

Niki Ashton: Supporting an NDP leader who shares our values

We are among the many Canadians who are joining the New Democratic Party  or renewing our membership in order to support Niki Ashton’s bid to become NDP leader. We invite you to join us in supporting her candidacy.

Niki Ashton was the first leadership candidate to courageously choose to address Palestine in her federal platform. Since then, she has shown consistent and principled support for the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination, justice and dignity. She has used her platform to commemorate the Nakba and to stand with Palestinian hunger strikers held in Israeli administrative detention. She has been unapologetic and fearless when confronted with criticisms of these stances.

The conditions under which Palestinians now live are so appalling, and our government’s complicity in that suffering is so profound, that demanding justice for Palestinians ought now to be considered a political litmus test. A candidate who supports human rights for Palestinians shows that she understands the key issues and is courageous enough to address them in the face of public criticism. If this litmus test is failed, that candidate will eventually disappoint you on any other issues that matter to you.

For this reason, along with her continued commitments to our indigenous community, environmental justice, universal access to healthcare, free tuition and student debt relief, and ending gender-based violence and discrimination, we believe Niki Ashton is the only way forward for the New Democratic Party, and for Canada as a whole.

Currently, Canada’s government accords charitable status to the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against Palestinians in the allocation of land in Israel. Canada’s government encourages extensive trade between the Canadian and Israeli military industries. Canada’s government votes consistently against United Nations resolutions condemning Israel’s human rights abuses, even though those resolutions enjoy overwhelming international support. Canada’s government allows products produced in Israel’s settlements – which constitute a war crime – to be sold in Canada bearing deceptive “Product of Israel” labels. As if this were not enough, our government is sitting idly by while Israel renders life unbearable for the 2 million inhabitants of Gaza. Trapped in a crumbling and sweltering open air prison with little if any electricity and meagre rations of food, the people of Gaza, one half of whom are children, have been reduced to a cruel experiment in the limits of human endurance.

To challenge all this, we need political leadership that speaks out fearlessly in favour of human rights for everyone. This is where you come in. This is what you need to know to make Niki Ashton the next leader of the New Democratic Party.

To vote for Niki, you must be an NDP member. Some of you may have supported another political party in the past, but no political party deserves unconditional loyalty. A political party deserves your support only when it is a vehicle to a better world. Our overarching loyalty ought to be to the values of justice, humanity and sustainability. A candidate who embodies those values, a candidate like Niki Ashton, deserves your support regardless of your past political affiliation.

Joining the NDP is simple. You can join through Niki’s official website, (nikiashton2017.ca), where you can also donate to her campaign or become a volunteer. If you’re under 26 years old or if you are un(der)employed, joining the NDP costs only $5. If you’re over 26 and employed full-time, the cost is $25 for a one-year membership. The last day to become a party member and vote for the next NDP leader is August 17. Online voting for the leadership race opens on September 18.

Niki has the courage of her convictions to win this race, but she can’t do it alone. It’s going to take all of us to make her the next leader of the New Democratic Party.

 

Dimitri Lascaris, Farida Fareh Lascaris, Stephanie Kelly, David Heap

Dr. David Kattenburg Files Appeal from Canadian Food Inspection Agency Decision to Allow False and Deceptive Labels on Wines from Illegal Israeli Settlements

In January 2017, Dr. David Kattenburg, a resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba whose parents were Holocaust survivors, filed a complaint with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Dr. Kattenburg’s complaint was that the LCBO was selling two wines produced in Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, and that those wines were falsely labelled as “Product of Israel.” The wines about which he complained were Shiloh Legend KP 2012 and Psagot Winery M Series, Chardonnay KP 2014.

By March 2017, the LCBO had not resolved Dr. Kattenburg’s complaint. Dr. Kattenburg therefore filed a complaint directly with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which is mandated by law to ensure that food and beverages sold in Canada are accurately labelled.

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 LCBO 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 from the Israeli government and its advocates in Canada, including B’Nai Brith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and Michael Levitt. Levitt, a Liberal MP for York Centre, is the Chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group. These advocates for Israel, who describe their Israel advocacy as ‘relentless’, professed ‘shock’ and ‘dismay’ that a Canadian consumer protection agency would have the temerity to require wines produced in Israel’s illegal settlements to be labelled accurately.

As a result of their 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.  Citing an obscure provision of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), the CFIA claimed not to have given adequate consideration to CIFTA and, remarkably, apologized for its decision.

On August 6, 2017, in my capacity as Dr. Kattenburg’s legal counsel, I transmitted to the CFIA’s Complaints and Appeals office Dr. Kattenburg’s appeal from the CFIA’s decision to continue to allow these settlement wines to be falsely labelled.  Dr. Kattenburg has decided to make available to the public Annex 1 to his Appeal Intake Form. Annex 1 sets forth the factual and legal basis of Dr. Kattenburg’s appeal. It is reproduced below in its entirety.

If this appeal to the CFIA’s Complaints and Appeals Office does not result in a prohibition on the importation and sale in Canada of falsely labelled settlement wines, it is Dr. Kattenburg’s intention to file an application for judicial review of the CFIA’s decision in the Federal Court of Canada. Continue Reading ›

Canada Undermines Targets for Protecting Oceans by Increasing Oil Exploration

A few days ago, the French government announced that it will issue a moratorium on new oil and gas exploration licenses. At the same time, the Trudeau government announced not only that it will allow oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but that it would allow this exploration to occur in a marine area that it has designated as “protected”. In this interview, I discuss these developments with Sabine Jessen, National Director of the Oceans Program for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19426

Canada’s Fossil Fuels Lobby Issues Dubious Data in a Bid for More Pipelines

On The Real News, I talk with Adam Scott of Oil Change International about Big Oil’s lobbying for more tar sands pipelines. As Adam explains, in making the case for more pipelines, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is using dodgy data that just don’t add up: