Canada cancels ban on Israeli wines from Judea and Samaria

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has retracted a ban on Israeli wines produced in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

By: Atara Beck, Senior Editor, World Israel News

Earlier this week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, a government body, prohibited the sale of wines from Judea and Samaria because, it explained, the label – Product of Israel – is “unacceptable” for wines produced in “occupied territory.”

In a letter dated July 11, 2017, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) informed vendors of the new CFIA directive. Ontario hosts Canada’s largest Jewish community.

The ban on the products – specifically mentioning the Psagot and Shiloh Wineries in the Judea and Samaria region – created an uproar. By Thursday afternoon, the CFIA backtracked.

When the ban was initially announced, World Israel News asked the CFIA what inspired the decision. No response was given before the deadline.

On Thursday, however, the agency emailed World Israel News, saying, “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regrets the outcome of the wine labelling assessment which led to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s (LCBO) response regarding products from two wineries labelled as ‘Product of Israel.’ In our assessment, we did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA).

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“Further clarification of the CIFTA (Article 1.4.1b) indicates that these wines adhere to the Agreement and therefore we can confirm that the products in question can be sold as currently labelled.

“The CFIA will be following up with the LCBO to correct our original response,” the statement concluded.

As explained on the Government of Canada website, “Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on his official visit to Israel in January 2014 that Canada and Israel would work to expand and modernize the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) to truly make it the cornerstone of Canada’s commercial relationship with Israel… The modernized CIFTA also breaks down old barriers, creating new export opportunities for Canadian agriculture and agri-food, and fish and seafood companies in the Israeli market. Since the original Agreement came into force, Canada’s two-way merchandise trade with Israel tripled to $1.6 billion in 2014.”

‘Reaffirming Strength of Canada-Israel Relationship’

In response to the revocation of the directive, the Canadian Jewish News reported, “Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) Chair David J. Cape said, as part of a statement: ‘Like many in our community, we were alarmed that this decision was taken. Such guidelines undermine the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement… It also sought to impose a unique, punitive standard on Israelis that the Government has consistently rejected. We thank the Government of Canada for its rapid action in resolving this matter, and for reaffirming the strength of the Canada-Israel relationship.’”

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“We thank the Government of Canada for responding so quickly to the legitimate concerns of the Jewish community and all concerned Canadians,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. Mostyn credited Member of Parliament Michael Levitt for helping to resolve the issue.

In a statement, Levitt said: “I was shocked and deeply concerned (about). . .the discontinuation of the sale of products from two Israeli wineries as a result of a notice issued by the CFIA. This action was completely at odds with both the Government’s long-standing close relationship with the State of Israel and our focus on broadening the Canada-Israel trade relationship, such as the upcoming ratification of an expanded Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.”

According to B’nai Brith, Levitt, a member of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal party, added that he will be travelling to Israel later this month and looks forward “to connecting with both wineries to demonstrate my support.”

A report in Canada’s National Post indicates that Israeli government officials in Ottawa had also intervened. “Israel supports free trade and objects to its politicization. We are currently in touch with the Canadian authorities and are discussing this matter,” Itay Tavor, head of public diplomacy at Israel’s embassy in Ottawa, told the Post.

Meryle Kates, executive director of StandWithUs Canada, a non-profit dedicated to informing the public about Israel, said the organization “welcomes the updated statement of CFIA, correcting the misinformation about their ‘ban on Israeli wines.’ We are proud that Canada has upheld the values of fairness that the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement provides.”

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“It’s a great time to go to the LCBO to buy wonderful Israeli wines,” she added.