Is Jerusalem a part of Israel? Not according to Canadian law, says Federal Court of Canada


In 2006, Eliyahu Veffer wanted Canada to recognize his birthplace, Jerusalem, as part of Israel. He took his case all the way to the Federal Court of Canada, which ruled that, according to Canadian law, the status of Jerusalem is still unresolved, and not a part of Israel. Read more…

A decision rendered by the Federal Court of Canada twelve years ago now bears heavily on the current debate over whether Canada should recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. The Trudeau government has declined to do so, but that position has been  criticized by various conservative political columnists including John Robson writing in the National Post.   Andrew Scheer, leader of the opposition, says he would move our embassy to Jerusalem if elected.

fcc jerusalem decisionScheer’s position flies in the face of international law, according to which the status of Jerusalem remains to be worked out as part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

This position was reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly in a lopsided vote on December 21, which again urged all member states to refrain from taking any steps until the final agreement has been settled. Though the USA was not mentioned by name in the resolution, it was clear to all that the motion was a rebuff to Donald Trump.

Curiously, Canada abstained on that UN vote. Curious because in fact, Canada’s position on this issue has already been brought before Canada’s courts, and Canada’s position is clear. According to current Canadian law, Canada does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as part of Israel. 

What’s in a passport?

Interestingly, the issue came up as a simple complaint over a passport. In 2004, Passport Canada refused a request from Eliyahu Veffer, an 18 year old Canadian man to have “Jerusalem, Israel” shown as his birthplace on his Canadian passport. “Jerusalem” alone was OK, but “Jerusalem, Israel’ was not OK, said Passport Canada.

In justifying its refusal to accede to his request, Passport Canada wrote:

The Government of Canada has established that designation for individuals born in Jerusalem be indicated as Jerusalem alone and in full in the Canadian passport. There is one exception for individuals born before May 14, 1948. Upon request, Palestine may be written instead of Jerusalem”.


A passport appeal led to clarification of Canada’s position on the status of Jerusalem 

The Passport Office’s refusal was appealed to the Federal Court of Canada by Mr. Veffer, with the legal help of David Matas. the senior legal officer for Bnai Brith Canada .

Two years later, the Federal Court upheld the original decision by Passport Canada. It ruled the government is justified in its policy of declining to put “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports “because the city’s status is unresolved”. Although Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, almost all foreign embassies have remained firmly planted in Tel Aviv.

The reason for the Passport Office’s refusal was succinctly stated in an affidavit by Michael Bell, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel who was called as an expert witness. The court accepted his submission as valid and included it in the court’s judgement.

“With regard to the status of the City of Jerusalem, Canada opposes Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and at this time does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the City of Jerusalem, as defined in the Partition Plan of 1947, on either side of the Green Line, east or west. The inscription of “Jerusalem, Israel” as place of birth in Canadian passports would be perceived as a recognition of sovereignty in contradiction of that policy, which would undermine Canada’s credibility and would therefore diminish our capacity to make any contribution toward peace,” submitted Bell.

“Canada opposes Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and at this time does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over any part of the City of Jerusalem, as defined in the Partition Plan of 1947, on either side of the Green Line, east or west.”

–  2006 Affadavit of Michael Bell, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel

In making its decision, the Federal Court reviewed the history of the creation of the State of Israel and its relationship to Jerusalem, noting that UN resolution 181 which created a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, specifically excluded Jerusalem which was to be kept separate under international supervision.

It also noted that when Israel applied for membership in the United Nations in 1949, its representative Abba Eban was asked whether Israel was claiming sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The question, and Eban’s answer, are cited in the FCC decision:

“Could the representative of Israel tell us whether, if Israel were admitted to membership in the United Nations, it would agree to co-operate subsequently with the General Assembly in settling the question of Jerusalem and the refugee problem or whether, on the contrary, it would invoke Article 2, paragraph 7 of the Charter which deals with the domestic jurisdiction of States.”

To this question, Mr. Eban replied:

” (…) I do not think that Article 2, paragraph 7, of the Charter, which relates to domestic jurisdiction, could possibly affect the Jerusalem problem, since the legal status of Jerusalem is different from that of the territory in which Israel is sovereign.”

The Federal Court of Canada decision

On May 1, 2006, Judge Conrad Von Finckenstein, ruling for The Federal Court of Canada, upheld the decision of Passport Canada. The full record of the FCC decision, including a review of the legal history of Jerusalem,  makes interesting reading and is available at the FCC site HERE.

The FCC decision was subsequently confirmed on appeal by the Federal Court of Appeal. The applicants further tried to take the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada which declined to hear the appeal. This essentially means the weight of the FCC decision has the authority of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Invitation to CTIP public meeting on Jerusalem -March 22, 2018

If you want to learn more interesting things about Jerusalem, come to CTIP’s public meeting on March 22. 7:30 p.m. at Churchill Senior Centre, 345 Richmond Road.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We invite brief comments (under 100 words) from readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at


  1. Thanks Peter. This is an interesting legal decision precedent pertaining to passport place of birth constraints which certainly should inform Canadian policy towards Jerusalem and where it moves or places its embassy ies in that city.

    Supposedly, Palestinian Canadians could not get their birthplace of Palestine specified on a Canadian passport since Canada has not yet recognized a state of Palestine as many other UN members have, apparently more than those which recognize Israel.

    A neat solution in support of a peace agreement would be for Canada to announce a recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital (similar to Russia and Turkey) and the internationalization of the holy sites (as in Michael Bell’s conception) with a specification that Canada’s diplomatic reprentation and offices in Jerusalem would be adjusted and moved to represent this reality when such an agreement has been finalized and confirmed by the United Nations Security Council. UNSC.

    It seems that the new US embassy in Jerusalem at the Consulate site is clearly in West Jerusalem, as defined by the Green line, although an element may be in the no mans land area. So even the USA can move its embassy in May and still be supportive of such a solution for Israel Palestine Jerusalem -assuming that the USA plan is ever announced.

  2. It would appear that Mr. Sheer would have a low opinion not only of Mr. Trudeau, liberals, liberal governments, but also of past conservative governments, federal courts, international law, the United Nations, and logic. Sad if these appearances are true. One way to find out would be to see if he is willing to come to even a single discussion session where the historical and current accuracy of the complex situation is presented. To quote Brian Wilson “wouldn’t it be nice…”.

    1. These zealots have no regard for any legal machinations except for those they set forth representing merely self-interest rather than a legal theory. Sheer would not appear except to register his disgust with agents who, once again, are mistreating Jews.

  3. Absoloutly pathetic!
    This attempt by Rabbi Veffer to get the FCC to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is pathetic

    It is equally pathetic to say that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel because the FCC didn’t recognize it as such, or because Andrew Scheer doesn’t stand a chance in the next election

    Jerusalem is and always was the capital of Israel, even after it was occupied by the Jordanian legion in 1948, when the Jewish quartet was ethnically cleansed from all the Jews.

    1. Hey Ahik, thanks for your comment.

      I think you might have misunderstood. (Perhaps I didn’t explain very well).

      Canada does not determine the status of Jerusalem. That was done by International law – as is the case for Israel itself which was recognized by international law and admitted to the UN. But the FCC decision says that Canada has now incorporated that international law into Canadian law.

      By decree of the League of Nations, Jerusalem was a city in Palestine until 1948. Israel did not exist.

      1. I apologize, it was I who was misunderstood.
        At the risk of sounding arrogant I’ll try to be clearer : as long as Jews see Jerusalem as their capital it doesn’t matter how the FCC or current international law view the status of Jerusalem. It may take a generation or two but eventually everyone will accept the fact that the Jews have an inalienable right to determine which city is their capital

        And, by the way, the Palestinians have that inalienable right too.

        But unlike the Arabs, that while they were the sovereigns in east Jerusalem (1948-1967) they kept their capital in Amman and ethnically cleansed all the Jews , the Jews did the opposite and have always viewed Jerusalem as their capital

      2. Hey Ahik,
        I’m still not sure I get your idea. Are you saying that no matter what international law says, Israel can do what it wants?

        Do you believe that there should be anything called international law?

        If so, what countries should be exempt? Would that apply to the Myanmar government with respect to the Rohinga for example?

        Do you believe that it was useful for Israel to be admitted to the UN? Do you think that the promises made by Ebba Eban to the UN at the time of admission should have been believed?

    2. Sure, it’s pathetic. The wonder of it all is that prior Israeli prevarications are used in denying the petition. This demonstrates that once you start dancing arou8nd the truth — as Zionists have done for many decades — you never know if you will end up thwarting your own goals and ambitions. For an immediate gain, Eban made representations which now trouble the Israeli claim today.

  4. I know two Jewish ladies here in Toronto that their birth certificate it says: Born in Palestine. The certificates are by Israeli authorities. Also in 2016 Yael Dunkelman from Tip Top Taylor family passed away here in Toronto. In the obituaries in the Globe and Mail twice it says: Born in Haifa Palestine. Again by Israeli authorities.

  5. Interesting Jake, but these cases you have cited seem to relate to Israeli birth/citizenship documents issued to Jews who were born in Palestine before 1948 when the whole area was under the British mandate of Palestine and Israel did not yet exist. It is likely that Israeli birth certificates and citizenship docs for both Jews and Arab Palestinians in Jerusalem issued after 1948 would specify Jerusalem, Israel given that under Israeli law (but not international law) all Jerusalem is within Israel.

    Peter’s point is that the birthplace of Jerusalem on a Canadian passport does not specify the city as being in Israel, as was requested by the intervenors, because Canada is not able to recognize any part of Jerusalem as being In Israel because the 1947 partition resolution envisaged the whole area of Jerusalem and its surroundings as being an “international city.” However, as the definition of “occupied territories has come to mean all areas occupied by Israel in 1967, it is East Jerusalem including the holy sites that is considered not to be part of Israel while the 1948 ceasefire lines also define what is considered to be Israel including areas in West Jerusalem where the Knesset and other israeli govt buildings including the foreign ministry are located and where diplomatic and intergovernmental business is conducted.

    Therefore while there has been a clear if implicit iinternational understanding that embassies to Israel should not be located in Jerusalem until the situation is fully resolved, there have been diplomatic missions to Israel situated in West Jerusalem on and off since 1948.. When PM Clark took his ill fated decision in 1979 to move Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem without specifying such geographical distinctions, he not only had to back down and reverse course, but this also caused pressure to be exerted on other smaller countries to withdraw their embassies to Israel from Jerusalem.

    The POTUS move of the US embassy to Jerusalem is disruptive but not necessarily fatal to a peace solution since the physical location is in West Jerusalem and Trump said himself that this was without prejudice to the final disposition of Jerusalem in a peace agreement. Along with recognizing Israel with its capital in West Jerusalem, committing simultaneously to a state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem (as Russia has done) and some sort of international regime for the holy places would certainly preserve a solution and might indeed become the “deal of the century.”

    1. I did not clarify that what I wrote was in regard to time and time again I heard people, (mainly Jews), who say that there is no and and there was no such thing as Palestine or Palestinians.

      If in many of those birth certificates and others documents, (issued by Jews), it’s written “Palestine”, than there was Palestine, (Maybe not defined as now a days countries are defined, (of course with the exception of Israel, which never declared its borders, due to expansionist ideas). It was always Palestine during the history. The Jews who lived in that area for generations were Palestinian Jews. So was Jesus.
      People can put a spin on anything or any situation. The Jews and Israelis are the masters in this craft.

  6. Well done. That Michael Bell’s observation of Canada not recognizing Israeli sovereignty on any part of Jerusalem was included in the FCC ruling is quite important.

    I beg to differ on the idea that Jerusalem’s status under international law “remains to be worked out as part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.” WRONG, and dangerous.

    The status of East Jerusalem under the IV Geneva Convention is unambiguous: occupied territory. Moreover, article VII expressly prohibits “special agreements” under occupation. Only when that occupation ends and the sovereign state of Palestine is recognized, is the Convention no longer applicable.

    To suggest that there is any entity on the planet that can compromise or negotiate away the legitimate rights of Palestinians anywhere, not least in and to East Jerusalem, is to diminish any protective value of International Humanitarian Law itself. Furthermore, it is to play into the propaganda that it is disputed territory and that Israel as “illegal occupant” (c.f. Michael Lynk) can negotiate the occupation, or even dream of legitimately setting foot in East Jerusalem before the sovereign State of Palestine is recognized.

    If the fake ‘peace process’ proved anything, it was that Palestinians’ only hope for justice was not in negotiations by powerless appointees, but in garnering international support for the applicability of international law.

  7. Essentially agree with Mr. Assaly that unequal negotiations between Palestine and Israel will get nowhere, Obama’s effort essentially failed because of Israeli intransigence on giving up any control to allow a Palestinian to emerge and insisted on control of all of an undivided Jerusalem as its eternal capital. Canada and the international community has been caught in this impasse.

    An international initiative to simultaneously recognize Israel with its capital in West Jerusalem, Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem and the internationalization of the holy sites in East Jerusalem could help break the continuing impasse. This could be confirmed by a UNSC resolution citing the international law which does not recognize any Israeli sovereignty beyond the 1948 greenline and clearly specifing terms and timelines. This could be supported by every country world except the Israeli hardline government which wants total security control of Palestine and total control of Jerusalem. It would not undermine the qualified US recognition of “Jerusalem” or even the May movement of its embassy to the USA consulate in West Jerusalem. The recent Russian recognition of this duality two state sokution also sets a useful precedent. It could also unite those countries that have either recognized Israel or Palestine or both.

    Anyway Canada backing this approach would be better than accepting the current inpasse and distractions. It could be the basis of Canadian election to and success at the UNSC. It does have a gender element of benefit of peace for both Israeli and Palestinian women and all those female pilgrims and tourists who want to see the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam unimpeded by Israeli restrictions. Maybe Canada could win another Nobel peace prize like Mr. Pearson did 60 years ago.

    1. the Last time the Arabs had control over east Jerusalem between 1948-1967 , they ethnically cleansed every last jew from the city.
      The Jewish quarter and the holiest places to Judaism were forbidden to Jews for 19 years

      As a result Israel will never again delegate the suverignity and security in Jerusalem to the Arabs or the UN

      The security wall that was erected in Jerusalem will be the future border between Israel and Palestine, it may take a generation or two but eventually the international community will come to terms with that, as it came to term with the existence of Israel

      As Mr Robert Assali wrote, the diaspora Palestinians will never accept that, but then again they never accepted the existence of Israel in the first place.

      So to sum it up: if you define East Jerusalem as the part of the city outside the security barrier, then your idea is wonderful and in-line with the vision of the state of Israel

      1. Hey Ahik, thanks for your post in response to George Jacoby,

        As you know, I encourage dissenting comments as long as they are sincere. Because you have lived in Jerusalem, I assume you must know that the path of that wall extends very far into the West Bank, leaving almost nothing of Jerusalem outside of it.

        Defining East Jerusalem as “the part of the city outside the security barrier” is duplicitous. The security barrier encompasses all of Jerusalem and a great deal of the West Bank, including many of those illegal settlements. For reference here is the official map from the UN. The red line shows the path of the wall.

        I leave it to others to decide whether your comment is a sincere attempt to be “fair” or a cynical attempt to confuse the issue.

  8. Yes, of course Peter Ahik and other contributors the border between Israel and Palestine under international law is the 1948 Green line plus any mutually agreed land swaps in a final agreement . approved by the UNSC. This means Israel with its capital in West Jerusalem and Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem in any final agreement

    Arguing that the Security Wall is the future border and that the whole of greater Jerusalem is Israrl’s capital disingenuous and misleading. It is also a formula for further generations of impasse and conflict. Arguments about what happened in the past in the 3000 yr history of Jerusalem are irrelevant to getting to a final agreement now.

    The key point about the old city holy sites being put under an international UN regime with Israeli and Palesttinian participation is that it neatly gets around the differences of national and religious claims over these sites and the international law that it is under Israeli occupation. It also assures access for all Jews, Christians and Muslims and the rest of the world too, therebye rendering Jerusalem a true city of peace and religious tolerance.

    Former Canadian ambassador to Israel Michael Bell and his colleagues have done much of the work on this “international concept for the old city. He said it was available to the parties when they were ready and notwithstanding Israeli government rejectionism which he admitted, THE TIME IS NOW for the whole world -Israel, Palestine USA POTUS, Canada, EU Arab Muslim world etc, – to realize it.

    1. George, you are right. Jerusalem is one of holiest place where all three faiths can peacefully live and worship together. The world should decide its future not the US or the United Nothings. If no action is taken by the good hearted people, the apartheid, illegal state of Zionists will continue to occupy the whole Palestine. Remember, silence means obedience to Zionism and that is dangerous to humanity.

  9. It’s equally duplicitous to suggest that West Jerusalem could be the capital of Israel despite the fact that it doesn’t include a single square meter of the old city

    At any rate, you are being unfair and rude towards Zionists, I’ll leave you alone in your echo chamber.
    Good luck and all the best

    1. Hey Ahik,
      I did not mean to be rude, just point out that you were not being entirely frank.
      As for your other point, I do not suggest that West Jerusalem be the Capital of Israel, however the borders be drawn. In my view, the best solution would be for Jerusalem to be under international auspices as was proposed in the original UN plan of partition.
      But of course, its not up to me, and I would be happy to support with any other proposal which had agreement from Israelis and Palestinians.
      Thank you for your good wishes. Much appreciated.

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