The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on Thursday revoked a directive stating that Israeli goods cannot be labeled as “made in Israel” if they are produced in Judea and Samaria, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) announced in a statement.
The directive was sent to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and was communicated by the LCBO to wine vendors in the province of Ontario in a letter asking them to “discontinue any importations or sales” of certain wines pending resolution of the matter.
The letter referred specifically to the Psagot Winery in the eastern Binyamin region, and to the Shiloh Winery in Maaleh Levona.
“The CFIA clarified that ‘Product of Israel’ would not be an acceptable country of origin declaration for wine products that have been made from grapes that are grown, fermented, processed, blended, and finished in the occupied West Bank territory,” LCBO’s letter stated.
“CFIA further advised that the government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). As such, wine products from these regions that are labeled as ‘Product of Israel’ would not be acceptable and would be considered misleading…. LCBO is currently working with the CFIA on an action plan to ensure compliance with the notification going forward.”
“Therefore, I am requesting that all vendors discontinue any importations or sales of products labeled as ‘Product of Israel’ from the wineries named above (or other located in the same regions), until further notice,” LCBO’s letter stated. “We are currently seeking clarifications from the CFIA on how such wines should be labeled in order to comply with the Food and Drugs Act.”
The letter, which circulated on social media on Wednesday, caused an outrage among Canadian Jewish organizations. B’nai Brith Canada called on the CFIA to rescind its decision.
“We can say now that we are expecting this disturbing decision to be corrected in short order,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn.
CIJA noted that learned about the directive on July 11 and immediately contacted key staff in the offices of the Minister of International Trade and Global Affairs Canada.
“We learned that the directive, which is at odds with government policy, was mistakenly issued at the bureaucratic level with no direction from political staff or the Minister,” it said.
In revoking the directive, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed that it will not require these wineries to relabel their goods.
It said in a statement it “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),” it added.
David J. Cape, CIJA chair, welcomed the cancellation of the directive, saying, “We commend the Government of Canada for quickly revoking this directive which is at odds with Canada’s policy. Like many in our community, we were alarmed that this decision was taken.”
He noted, “Such guidelines undermine the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement that has benefited Canadians for twenty years. 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.”
B’nai Brith Canada commended the government for cancelling the directive.
“We thank the Government of Canada for responding so quickly to the legitimate concerns of the Jewish community and all concerned Canadians,” said Mostyn.
“We will continue to make inquiries about the origin of this travesty, to ensure that nothing like ever happens again. B’nai Brith will always relentlessly advocate for our community,” he added.