CJPME disagrees with CFIA backtracking on wine labelling

VIN.pngMontreal, July 18, 2017  — Last week, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) issued a press release praising the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) decision to discontinue the importation of wines from Israeli colonies (aka “settlements”) mislabelled as “products of Israel.” CJPME is disappointed to learn that the CFIA has retracted its initial decision.  CJPME disagrees with this latest flip-flop, and believes the government's posture prioritizes Israeli business interests over the consumer protection of Canadians, and the human rights of Palestinians.

In order to justify this reversal, the CFIA cited a provision in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), whereby “Israel” is considered “territory where its customs laws are applied.” As such, CFIA concluded, wines produced in illegal Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) may be labeled as “Israeli.” CJPME points out that the passage cited in CFIA's flip-flop is qualified in CIFTA's text as, "For the purposes of [CIFTA]," relating to trade and tariffs, and does not supersede Canada's consumer labeling laws. CJPME President Thomas Woodley responded, “Once again, the Trudeau government creates an unwarranted exception for Israel. In taking this step, the government violates its own labeling standards, and contradicts Canada's official position on Israeli "settlements.”

The CFIA’s decision to allow the continued mislabelling of West Bank wines is highly misleading, and appears to be driven by political considerations. CIFTA does not contain any provisions that address product labelling; rather the Canadian Food and Drugs Act lays out the general parameters for product labelling when it states, “no person shall label, package, treat process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.” Therefore, contrary to the CFIA’s calculation, CIFTA does not in anyway supersede these existing regulations. CJPME decries the government's decision on the West Bank wines and considers CFIA legally remiss in its responsibilities under Canadian Food and Drugs Act. 

CJPME also adds that under international law, it is illegal for countries to colonize territories they militarily occupy. Israel’s West Bank colonies and wineries are in clear violation of this of this legal principle. In fact, UN Security Council resolution 2334 (December 2016) acknowledged Israel’s precarious position in demanding that Israel cease all settlement activities and enterprises in the OPT. Further, the resolution asked the international community to properly distinguish between products from the state of Israel and the OPT. CJPME calls on the government to respect the unanimous consensus reached by UN Security Council and appropriately censure illegal businesses in the OPT.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact Miranda Gallo, 438-380-5410
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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