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B’nai Brith Plays Role in Court Decision Exonerating Jewish Judge from Allegations of Anti-Muslim Bias

Justice David Spiro (Andrew Balfour)

August 5, 2022

OTTAWA – A Federal Court has dismissed an application from a number of parties that sought to challenge a Canadian Judicial Council ruling permitting Justice David Spiro to continue sitting as a federal judge.

This followed B’nai Brith Canada’s legal intervention, where we argued that the parties’ application inappropriately relied on Justice Spiro’s Jewish faith and (pre-appointment) pro-Israel advocacy as evidence of bias. B’nai Brith succeeded in securing interverner status in the case, despite opposition from the Applicants – the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, among others.

The Applicants had originally filed complaints with the Canadian Judicial Council alleging Justice Spiro interfered in the appointment process of Dr. Valentina Azarova at the University of Toronto [U of T] Faculty of Law. The Council’s Review Panel considered whether Justice Spiro’s conduct might be serious enough to warrant his removal from judicial office and determined that it was not.

The Applicants brought an application for judicial review of the CJC’s decision. That application at least initially relied in part on Justice Spiro’s pre-judicial association with Jewish and pro-Israel organization to support the claim that he would be biased against Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians.

As intervener, B’nai Brith offered the Court our expertise on dual-loyalty tropes to assist in ensuring that the Canadian justice system did not unconsciously buy into myths and stereotypes about Jews. B’nai Brith argued the claim against Justice Spiro – that he 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 and antisemitic assumptions.

“The allegation that a Jewish judge or Israel supporter must be automatically biased against Muslims must always be rejected,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO. “We’re pleased that the Court arrived at the correct decision and that we ultimately prevailed against an array of groups trying to remove Justice Spiro from the bench.”

B’nai Brith was represented before the Federal Court by Andrew Bernstein, Yael Bienenstock and Adrienne Oake of Torys LLP. We thank them for their great work in helping secure this major legal victory.