Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) submitted a court application, known as a mandamus, in federal court Friday urging Canadian Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino to deny former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett entry into Canada. The organizations that filed the mandamus include the Palestinian and Jewish Unity, Just Peace Advocates and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute. They filed the mandamus ahead of Bennett’s scheduled speaking engagement in Toronto, Ontario on June 14. The NGOs allege that Bennett has committed war crimes in violation of both international and Canadian law.
The mandamus argues that Bennett committed war crimes in violation of 6(1)(c) and 6(1.1) of Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act “by making voluntary and significant contributions to the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Golan Heights.” Furthermore, the court filings argue that the Mendicino must declare Bennett inadmissible to Canada under s.35(1)(a) and (b) of the nation’s Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Michael Levitt, who is hosting Bennett during his June 14 visit, criticized the efforts to bar Bennett from entering Canada. He stated that the claims constitute a “baseless smear campaign” intended “to vilify and delegitimize the State of Israel and intimidate Canadian Jews.” Levitt highlighted that, during Bennett’s tenure as prime minister, he established a diverse government that encompassed an Arab party.
Nicholas Pope, a lawyer with the Ottawa firm Hameed Law who is involved the legal action, told JURIST:
If the Minister has merely reasonable grounds to believe someone was complicit in a war crime, they are inadmissible to Canada. Naftali Bennett was the Prime Minister of Israel while Israel expanded its settlements, and Canada’s official position is that settlement expansion is a war crime. The facts speak for themselves.
A report by PeaceNow, an Israeli non-governmental organization, claims that the Bennett coalition government increased the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The report also states that the government supported the eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and favored the construction of illegal settler housing units in their place.
Prior to filing Friday’s mandamus, the NGOs lodged a complaint on May 29 with the Canadian Border Services Agency, insisting on denying Bennett’s entry. The complaint referenced statements made by Michael Lynk, a former UN Special Rapporteur and law professor, who supports the mandamus’s claim that the transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory constitutes a war crime. The complaint also cites statements condemning Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements from former Canadian Minister of Transport Marc Garneau and current Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly.
Mendicino’s office has not responded to the mandamus. However, the federal government is expected to provide a response within ten days of the filing. It remains uncertain whether a decision will be reached before Bennett’s June 14 scheduled arrival in Canada.