Skip to main content

Canada: Pro-Palestinian activists sue government over arms sales to Israel

Exports of military goods to Israel violate Canadian law, a group of lawyers and activists argue in a federal lawsuit
Demonstrators in support of Palestinians hold a rally to call for a ceasefire, at Dorchester Square in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 18 November 2023 (Alexis Aubin/AFP)

A group of pro-Palestinian human rights activists has filed a lawsuit in Canada's federal court to stop the country from exporting military equipment and technology to Israel. 

The shipments, the group argues, violate Canadian law since they provide a "substantial risk" that they are being used to commit serious acts of violence against women and children in violation of international law. 

The lawsuit, filed jointly by Canadian and Palestinian applicants, specifically asks the court to cease issuing export permits for military goods and technology destined for Israel, and to deem such permits unlawful. 

Permits for military exports to Israel worth approximately $21m have been authorised by Canada since 7 October when the Israel-Palestine war broke out, and it is more than the value of such permits allowed in the previous year, according to the applicants. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The applicants behind the lawsuit include members of Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), and the Palestinian organisation, Al-Haq, established in 1979 in Ramallah, the West Bank, to protect and promote human rights and the rule of the law in occupied Palestine.

Other applicants include Hammam Farah and his mother Hiba Farah, alongside Dr Ayman Oweida, three Canadian citizens with Palestinian origins who all have family members and friends killed by Israeli military personnel. A 26-year-old Palestinian woman from Gaza who is currently seeking asylum in Canada while her family still resides in Gaza has also joined the lawsuit. 

“It’s cruel and reprehensible that our government has continued to provide material support to Israel’s atrocities, while at the same time cutting off humanitarian support to the victims of those same atrocities,” said Hammam Farah, one of the applicants, in a press release.

In late January, CLAIHR wrote an open letter to the Canadian government, urging Ottawa to “immediately halt” all exports in light of potential human rights violations against Palestinians in Gaza, as reported by Aljazeera

In response, Global Affairs Canada, the country's foreign ministry, claimed that all permits issued since 7 October are for "non-lethal equipment".

"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," the statement read. 

Rising pressure inside Canada

While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has consistently stressed Israel's "right to defend itself" since the Hamas-led attack on 7 October, senior officials have called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire.

The lawsuit, the applicants' statement says, "comes on the heels of the near-unanimous January 26, 2024 ruling of the International Court of Justice". The ICJ ruling found that genocide in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli forces is "plausible" and called on Israel to prevent further atrocities.

CLAIHR's case also comes amid mounting pressure within Canada. At the end of last month, three weapons manufacturers in the cities of Peterborough, Toronto and Calgary were blockaded by protestors demanding an end to military exports to Israel. 

The Raytheon facility in Calgary in Canada's southwest is the world’s second-largest military company, which reportedly supplies Israel with guided air-to-surface missiles for its F-16 fighter jets, as well as cluster bombs and bunker busters which have consistently been used against Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure. 

Canada is not the only country to face a lawsuit over its arms exports to Israel. Last month, a court in the Netherlands ruled that the country must halt its shipments of F-35 fighter jets to Israel due to "serious violations of international humanitarian law".

In a similar vein, US President Joe Biden is facing a lawsuit over his administration's failure to prevent an "unfolding genocide" in Gaza.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.