Justice minister asked to investigate alleged illegal recruiting in Canada by Israeli military

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are actively recruiting in Canada in violation of Canadian law, according to an official complaint sent to Justice Minister David Lametti on October 19th calling on him to investigate and lay charges as warranted. Read more.

After six months of careful research and documentation by a team led by Montreal lawyer John Philpot, an official complaint has been lodged with Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti over what they allege to be a longstanding violation of Canadian law by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The letter cites many instances, over many years, in which the IDF has been openly recruiting Canadians without any interference or opposition from the Canadian government.

“Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”Foreign Enlistment Act.

IDF Colonel Birak Hiram speaking to students in Toronto in 2019

The letter, which is signed by over 170 Canadians claims that for years “the Israeli military has also conducted programs in Canadian schools and community organizations which are designed to induce persons in Canada to enlist in the Israel military in direct violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act”.

The full text of the letter including references and photo exhibits can be found on the website of “Just Peace Advocates” one of the organizations involved in preparing the letter to Minister Lametti.

The illegal practice has been going on in Canada for nearly 20 years, according to an article by Yves Engler in Canadian Dimension magazine. When I served as Vice President of the Concordia Student Union in 2002″, claims Engler, “Hillel, a Jewish student group, provocatively handed out flyers advertising volunteer opportunities in the IDF.

Canadian Ambassador to Israel Deborah Lyons hosts Canadians who volunteer for the IDF

“One of the most surprising things we discovered,” said Mr. Philpot, “is that Deborah Lyons, our Canadian Ambassador to Israel appears to be encouraging and facilitating this activity by welcoming and hosting Canadian “lone” soldiers at the Embassy in Israel”. (NOTE: “Lone soldiers” is the term Israel uses for foreigners, including Canadians, who serve in the IDF.)

“We are calling for a thorough investigation to be undertaken of those who have facilitated this recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and if warranted that charges be laid against all those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting in Canada for the IDF,” concludes the letter.

When asked about the alleged crime at a press conference, Minister Lametti appeared to downplay the issue. “It’s up to the police to investigate,” he told Le Devoir. Somewhat oddly, in prefacing his remarks, Lametti noted that Canada has “relations with Israel” as well as “personal relations with the citizens of Israel.” It’s not clear if the minister meant that because of our close relation with Israel, it should be allowed to infringe Canadian law with impunity.

Anyone who wants to encourage the minister to look into the matter can contact him by email at: David.Lametti@parl.gc.ca.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org.


  1. This is a travesty in our country. Flouting Canadian law this way is completely unacceptable. Even worse, due to the loaded background of IDF history in the occupied West Bank. I’m glad to see the substantial hue and cry from Canadians who understand the gravity of the issues.

  2. Ok but how does a government have personal relations with foreign citizens? Most likely that isn’t what he meant of course. He’s talking about party funders or lobbyists.

  3. Lamentti, wasn’t he the fellow picked to run justice after the real minister stood up to the ham-fisted efforts of the Prime Minister to ram through acquittal of a giant Canadian engineering firm with very close connections to the Liberal party.
    It certainly seems Lamentti knows what his marching orders are.

  4. From what I understand from Canadians of Palestinian ancestry they have had a gun pointed at them by a Canadian serving in the IDF and not just once. In fact one soldier told them he comes from Thornhill and joined the IDF to get a scholarship. He also told her that she needs to comply because “I am the one holding the gun” A Canadian threatening a fellow Canadian!

  5. They should also think about the Canadians who accept the invitation, serve in the IDF, and then return to Canada. Shouldn’t they be treated exactly the way that those who went abroad to join ISIS or similar groups are treated?

  6. I was one of the seven people who worked on this. It is absolutely a big deal. It’s criminal. Canadian law clearly states that the activities of IDF’s personnel with the cooperation of a few Canadian entities violated our law for many years. No one else could do these without being charged, Anyone who goes to join an Islamic country, is followed by CSIS and the RCMP and either prevented from coming back or interrogated and possibly charged on return. Israeli army is known for numerous crimes and war crimes. Who knows, it may be that one day those young individuals may charged by being complicit to war crimes. Yes, Canadian authorities will try not to do anything or minimise the fallout. Peter, If anyone is interested to send a letter, can go to the red link in your posting: “.Full text of the letter”. There is a ready letter, (below the picture), TAKE ACTION, to make it easy for people to sign. (so far in 48 hours of the letter sent to Lametti, there are about 1000 signatures).

  7. It is outrageous. Every Canadian should feel offended. I hope the Canadian government will prove to Canadians that the rule of law is more important than the interests of the Israeli lobby.

  8. I’m disappointed that this attack on the close relationship between the Canada’s Jewish community and the IDF has been taken into the legal realm. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that the definition of recruitment is quite specific and none of the activities I’m aware of would approach that level. This seems like harassment stemming from ideological anti-Zionists who disapprove of the IDF’s activities in defense of the state and people of Israel.

    The law cited does not prevent the voluntary enlistment of Canadians in the armies of friendly states. A remarkably large number of young Canadian Jews choos to volunteer for the IDF, but that has to do with the values they learn in their families and the close relationship many Canadian Jews have with the Jewish state.

    Likewise, I don’t see the reception by the Canadian ambassador of Canadian lone soldiers as being anything nefarious. The soldiers she hosted were already in the IDF and so it cannot be said that her activity had any relationship with recruitment. Like the attempt to ban Israeli wines that stem from the captured territories, this is political activity brought to the legal realm. I suspect that it will be equally unsuccessful in enlisting the Canadian state in the ongoing argument over the merits of the case of Israel.

    1. Indeed, there are antisemites, many in this forum, who hate to see the Jewish state of Israel succeed and prosper. They illogically see all of the greatness of Israel coming at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs, which is certainly not so.

      1. Mr. Sigman,

        You wrote, “They illogically see all of the greatness of Israel coming at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs, which is certainly not so.” How much of the “greatness of Israe”l came at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs? It is certainly not all but it is equally certainly not none.

    2. Mr. Roytenberg,

      The act contains a definition of recruiting that seems to be very broad.

      “11 (1) Any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

      Like you, I am not a lawyer but the phrase “recruits or otherwise induces” seems to me to include what has been described.

      With regard to the individuals who join the IDF the act says,

      “Any person who, being a Canadian national, within or outside Canada, voluntarily accepts or agrees to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state at war with any friendly foreign state or, … is guilty of an offence.”

      Israel is still formally at war with Lebanon and Global Affairs Canada describes friendly relations between Canada and Lebanon. That seems to make being in the IDF an offence.

      In my personal opinion that the law should be tightened to forbid serving in any foreign armed force but it does not seem to do that now.

  9. Cette pratique de l’État israélien est tout à fait inacceptable. C’est une atteinte à la souveraineté nationale du Québec et du Canada. J’espère que les député.e.s de la Chambre des communes vont amené.e.s le premier ministre et le ministre de la Justice du Canada à sévir contre Israël.

  10. For the IDF to recruit a person, that person has to pass two assessment days Tzav 1 and Tzav 2 (spread by several weeks between them) in one of five recruitment offices (Haifa, Tiberius, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba)
    There are no exceptions.
    I had two “lone soldiers” under my command, they immigrated to Israel as 18 year olds, spent about a year in Israel as civilians, during that time they learned the language settled in, passed this two assessment days successfully before they were recruited.

    No one is being recruited in Canada, flys over to Israel and joins the IDF, it just doesn’t work like that

    It is however possible that the IDF sends an officer to Canada to answer questions about the service in the IDF, and I agree that it’s wrong and unnecessary

    1. Thanks Ahik, for this helpful post.
      As i understand it, Israel still has compulsory military service, and has more than enough men/women for the IDF. The idea of “recruitment” in Canada is actually a very low return on investment for the IDF. Bringing in recruits many of whom don’t speak Hebrew very well, and who are not familiar with the region is not a big advantage for the IDF. (I also read somewhere that there is a high suicide rate among “lone soldiers”.)

      Sending an IDF officer to Canada for a week or two of recruiting is a rather high cost for questionable military value.

      My guess is that the IDF sees this basically as part of its public relations effort. It does not have a good reputation in Canada so this is part of its “outreach’ – mostly to young Canadian Jews. If some of them actually sign up that’s a bonus.

      1. Israel always seems to be trying to trying to encourage jews to “make aliyah” that is to immigrate to Israel with the intent of remaining there. For example, I have read of Netanyahu flying to France after a violent event against Jews to convince french jewish families that they would be safer in Israel, Attracting young Jews to the IDF has their immigration as a side-effect. It may also attract people with desirable education or skills. When I was much younger, a company that was using some of my work tried (in vain) to convince me to move to Israel. They seemed unable to understand my reluctance to do so.

      2. Precisely.
        However many of the soldiers who come to Israel as lone soldiers, stay in Israel and start their own family after the service is over.
        Different zionist organizations have many programs who’s goal is to get young Jews to come to Israel for a period of a year or more, assuming that a certain percentage of these kids would stay in Israel for good

        I’m guessing that the budget of that officer trip to Canada is coming from the ministry of Immigration and Absorption not from the ministry of defence

    2. The definition of “recruit” that is relevant to Canadian law is a Canadian one – not the IDFs definition. As I pointed out above, the definition given in Canada’s Foreign Enlistment act is very broad.

Comments are closed.