March 14, 2022
OTTAWA – The Federal Court has granted intervener status to B’nai Brith of Canada League for Human Rights
for an upcoming case about a Jewish judge, rejecting opposition from parties who sought to exclude the Jewish human rights organization from the legal process.
The case concerns Justice David Spiro. Justice Spiro spoke to an alumni and development officer from the University of Toronto regarding his concerns about hiring Valentina Azarova, a virulently anti-Israel academic based in Germany, to lead its prestigious International Human Rights Program.
This prompted complaints against Justice Spiro to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), seeking his removal from the bench. The CJC’s Judicial Conduct Review Panel concluded that, while Justice Spiro had erred in discussing Dr. Azarova with the University, there were no grounds to remove him from the bench. Some of these complainants are now challenging the CJC’s decision in Federal Court.
In reasons released last Wednesday granting B’nai Brith leave to intervene, Justice Catherine M. Kane rejected arguments opposing B’nai Brith’s intervention from the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Craig Scott, Leslie Green, the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, Independent Jewish Voices and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, noting that “some of their objections [to B’nai Brith] are inconsistent.”
B’nai Brith will argue before the Court that the claim Justice Spiro must be biased against Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians because he is a pro-Israel member of the Jewish community, is baseless and risks descending into stereotypes. While the decision does not deal with that argument on its merits, the Court stated that “B’nai Brith’s suggestion that the allegations of bias or the perception of bias against Justice Spiro are based, in part, from his affiliations and his faith cannot be dismissed.”
“B’nai Brith is proud to continue ensuring that the voices of Canadian Jewry are heard in important legal cases,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “The vast majority of Canadian Jews are pro-Israel and reject bias against Israel. In our view, if Justice Spiro is ultimately subjected to discipline, then the rights of Canadian Jews as a whole to participate in the Canadian judiciary will be undermined.”
The Azarova affair has sparked concerns about antisemitism beyond the current Federal Court proceeding. Terezia Zoric, President of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, alleged in June that an “entitled Zionist minority” was engaged in “unending harassment and psychological warfare” against Azarova supporters. Dr. Zoric’s remarks are now the subject of a human rights complaint by a group of Jewish professors. Later, a professor at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law was forced to apologize after B’nai Brith revealed that he had compared Justice Spiro to a Nazi jurist on his Twitter account.
This has all happened at the same time that there has been intensifying anti-Israel activity by student groups within the University. Following a long campaign by graduate student Chaim Katz with assistance from B’nai Brith Canada, the Provost recently decided to withhold certain fees from the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, finding that it was engaged in discrimination against Israelis based on nationality.
B’nai Brith is represented before the Federal Court by Andrew Bernstein, Yael Bienenstock and Adrienne Oake of Torys LLP, and thanks them for their hard work on the motion to intervene.