Letter to Minister Virani: Investigate Canadians in IDF

Montreal, January 18, 2024 - CJPME has sent the following letter to Justice Minister Arif Virani urging the Canadian government to investigate Canadian nationals who are serving or volunteering with the Israeli military in its war on Gaza.

Click here to download the full letter as a PDF


Dear Min. Virani,

I am writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) to request immediate action to investigate and deter the participation of Canadian nationals in violations of international law in Gaza.

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has demonstrated a clear pattern of grave violations of international law. Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in Gaza has killed more than 24,000 people, 70% of them women and children. Israel’s deprivation of food, water, fuel, and electricity to Gaza has put the entire population at risk of mass death from starvation, dehydration and disease. Israel’s past violations of international law have been well documented in countless investigations by the UN and human rights organizations, and its current actions are subject to a pending war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, Israel faces charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

It is therefore profoundly troubling that Canadian nationals have travelled to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), with an unknown number of Canadians among the estimated 360,000 reservists. There are many examples in the Canadian press (CBC, CPCP24, CJN) that feature stories of Canadians who have chosen to voluntarily participate in Israel’s military offensive, including as ‘lone soldiers.’ The participation of Canadian nationals in Israel’s offensive raises the serious likelihood that they are involved in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Canada has obligations under international law to investigate war crimes and prosecute the suspects. Under Canadian law, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act states that:

 "Every person who, either before or after the coming into force of this section, commits outside Canada (a) genocide, (b) a crime against humanity, or (c) a war crime, is guilty of an indictable offence and may be prosecuted for that offence[.]"

For the purpose of investigations, prosecutions, and other proceedings, Canada has established a Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program (War Crimes Program) under the joint direction of multiple government agencies, including the Department of Justice and the RCMP.

Given the nature of the atrocities committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), it is regrettable that Canada has failed to issue any guidance to Canadian nationals regarding how their participation in the Israeli military could make them criminally liable under these laws. On the contrary, past behaviour by the Canadian Embassy to Israel – including the hosting of a social gathering for Canadian nationals serving as ‘lone soldiers’ in the IDF in 2020 – has sent a message that Canada is encouraging participation in the IDF, rather than seeking to discourage participation in an occupying army that is violating international law.

Canada must take action to discourage Canadian involvement in the Israeli military, which carries the risk of complicity in criminal activities, and ensure that any person who is involved in the commission of war crimes is held accountable. We therefore call on the Canadian government to:

  • Issue a warning to Canadian nationals that serving or volunteering with the Israeli military may make them criminally liable under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act;
  • Launch an investigation under its War Crimes Program into the participation of Canadian nationals involved in Israel’s military offensive;
  • Ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is conducting detailed interviews with Canadian nationals who are returning from foreign military service;
  • Share the findings of its investigations with the International Criminal Court;
  • Publicly investigate the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers for breaching section 11(1) of Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act by inducing Canadians to join the Israeli military.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this urgent matter.


Michael Bueckert, PhD

Vice President

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East