Pro-Palestinian group sues Canada over military exports to Israel

FILE PHOTO: Protest as Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau visits Edgemont Flats housing complex in Edmonton

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Pro-Palestinian and human rights advocates in Canada on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the federal government to stop it from allowing companies to export military goods and technology to Israel.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court, argues that Canadian laws prevent military exports to Israel because there is "substantial risk" they could be used to violate international law and commit serious acts of violence against women and children, according to a statement from the applicants.

Israel launched a ground and air assault on the Gaza Strip nearly five months ago in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people. More than 30,000 people have been killed by Israel's assault.

Since then Ottawa has authorized at least C$28.5 million ($21.0 million) worth of new permits for military exports to Israel, more than the value of such permits allowed in the previous year, the applicants said.

The applicants include the Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights group, the Palestinian organization Al-Haq and four individuals.

"Our policy on export permits has not changed. Canada has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world, and respect for human rights is enshrined in our export controls legislation," a spokesperson for the Global Affairs Canada department said in a written statement.

"In recent years, the government has not received, and therefore not approved, any export permits for weapons to Israel. The permits issued since October 7th, and in fact all permits that are currently open, are for non-lethal equipment," the spokesperson said.

NATO allies the United States and the Netherlands also face lawsuits over the Gaza war. Last month, a Dutch court ordered the government to block all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns they were being used to violate international law.

Israel's military campaign has prompted regular pro-Palestinian protests in major Canadian cities. Last week, demonstrators gathered at gun maker Colt Canada's facility in Kitchener, Ontario.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consistently said Israel has the right to defend itself after the Hamas assault in October. Senior officials though have called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire in the conflict.

($1 = 1.3596 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa, additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by David Ljunggren, Nia Williams and Michael Perry)