Canada’s Anti-Iran Court Ruling Issued under US Dominance: Scholar
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An Ottawa-based researcher and scholar said a Canadian court’s ruling ordering the seizure of Iranian assets under the pretext of alleged involvement in terrorist activities was issued in June under “US dominance”.
“Everything Canada does is under US dominance. But that does not mean that government officials directly instruct judges. The system is more sophisticated than that. Judges are part of the elite. Their entire careers depend on reading the desires of the political system. Their professional ethics and the international reputation of the Canadian legal system should be the balancing forces,” Denis Rancourt told the Tasnim News Agency in response to a question on if the court ruling had been made under the US pressure.
Denis Rancourt is a former professor of physics at the University of Ottawa. In the fall of 2008, he was removed from all teaching duties under the pretext that he had granted A+ grades to 23 students in one course during the winter 2008 semester; however, it's quite clear to everybody that his outspoken criticism of Israel and his pro-Palestinian activism had triggered his dismissal from the university. Prof. Rancourt's classes were always attended by tens of students and he was considered as one of the popular university professors at the Faculty of Science.
Rancourt has published more than 100 academic papers. He was a member of Ottawa-Carleton Institute for Physics and the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre. He is the author of the book "Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism."
Following is the full text of the interview.
Q: As you are aware, a court in Canada recently issued a verdict giving $13 million of Iran’s non-diplomatic assets to the families of Americans who died in several attacks blamed on Iran. The judgment by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found Tehran responsible for financing and training Hamas and Hezbollah operatives, who purportedly carried out eight bombings or hostage-takings in Buenos Aires, Israel, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia between 1983 to 2002. This is while that Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion said back in March that his country’s severing of diplomatic ties with Tehran back in 2012 “had no positive consequences for anyone”, signalling interest to reopen embassy in Tehran. What is your take on the court ruling? What did prompt Ottawa to unexpectedly take such a decision?
A: The recent ruling to which you refer is the June 2016 ruling of judge Glenn Hainey in Ontario’s trial court, which has been much talked about in the Canadian and international media. The ruling was on a motion brought by Iran. Iran’s motion, which was dismissed, was to strike rulings made earlier by the same court, which enforced US trial rulings that have nothing to do with Canada or with any Canadian citizen.
The US rulings themselves are for some $600,000,000 to two of the claimants out of a dozen or so additional claimants. The Hainey ruling maintained orders against $13,000,000 of Iranian assets that could be identified in Ontario. The (Conservative) former federal government itself had identified these assets on its public website, in order to “facilitate” such claims.
The US rulings were made pursuant to the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Until 2012, the US was the only state in the world to have such a law that is contrary to the international law of state sovereignty, and was the only state to have a domestic law expressly violating established principles of sovereignty and state immunity; unilaterally taking jurisdiction, in any matter it deems related to “terrorism”, from select foreign states that it puts on a “list”. Somehow, this list contains solely states that oppose US regime-change policy in the Middle East but does not contain US allies such as Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been linked to the terrorist attacks of 911, is a well-known purveyor of terrorism, and is presently waging a brutal and illegal war of aggression against Yemen, while receiving military arms from Canada.
Iran is challenging the US law in the international courts, and this has unnerved the US. Meanwhile Canada has been losing its objectivity and independence at an alarming rate, and it has recently circumvented its democratic rules and traditions to summarily pass laws that are unconstitutional and ideologically motivated, by using an “omnibus bill” procedural device. One of those laws was contained in the “Omnibus Bill” C-10 that was enacted under the Harper government in 2012: The Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA), with amendments to the State Immunity Act (SIA).
By these new laws, Canada became the second state in the world to proclaim predatory jurisdictions against states that it lists on the basis of ideological criteria, contrary to the established international-law principles of state sovereignty, state immunity, and equality of states. Canada’s list contains solely Iran and Syria, two states opposing the ongoing US geopolitical machination for “regime change” by a covertly supported mercenary war against Syria.
Furthermore, Canada’s new laws are explicit violations the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT) that Canada ratified in 2002, which delimits the conditions under which domestic-court jurisdiction can be established, defines the types of funds that can be seized, and constrains the state parties to carry out their obligations “in a manner consistent with the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States and that of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other States”. Those obligations do not mean that states can escape responsibility for preventing and prosecuting terrorism. It only means that Canada cannot substitute its jurisdiction for the jurisdiction of another state.
The Hainey ruling used Canada’s illegal JVTA-SIA statutes as a pretext to enforce the US rulings, while additionally making absurd interpretations of the text of the JVTA in order to enforce rulings that have nothing to do with Canada and that are limitation barred. There was not even a civil cause of action for “terrorism” in Canada at the distant time when the claimed acts occurred. Judge Hainey did not consider and misrepresented valid legal arguments of Iran. The Hainey ruling is an embarrassment both to Canada and to the legal profession.
Iran has now duly filed an appeal application against the Hainey ruling, as confirmed to me by the appellate court. A date for the appeal hearing has not yet been set. If the appeal is heard, Iran will have done a great service to Canadians, and to the legal profession. The Court of Appeal for Ontario has, in the recent past, been attentive to international law and the principle of state immunity. Furthermore, Hainey’s ruling was expressly contrary to rulings of the same motions court in a case with Libya, on the question of whether Canada’s evidence in the motion must be accepted as true without evidentiary challenge or cross-examination. Iran’s appeal will be the first real test of Canada’s bad laws, not to mention judge Hainey’s contortions of legal logic.
In addition, I note an appearance of judicial bias, apart from the incredible ruling itself. Judge Hainey was nominated to his judgeship in 2011 by the same Conservative government leader, then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who in 2012 pushed through “Omnibus Bill” C-10. During the 2016 hearing of the motion, judge Hainey publicly raised the statements of (the new, Liberal) Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, musing whether Iran would “come off the list” and stating that the entire legal proceeding could become “academic” (i.e., a waste of resources) if Iran were removed from the list.
The mainstream media in Canada is pro-Israel and the statements of judge Hainey were not missed. The Israel lobby has made it clear to Dion and to the Liberal Party that there will be a heavy price to pay for détente with Iran. I hope the new Canadian government will have the backbone of its initial convictions. The Israel lobby’s wishes against Iran are bad for Canada and bad for the world.
Q: “The plaintiffs in the five actions before the court are US citizens who obtained judgments against the defendants in proceedings before US courts. The US courts found the defendants liable for the plaintiffs’ damages resulting from these terrorist attacks on the basis that Iran actively supported Hamas and Hezbollah. The US judgments remain largely unpaid,” according to the text of the ruling. Do you believe that the court made the ruling against Iran under the US pressure?
A: Everything Canada does is under US dominance. But that does not mean that government officials directly instruct judges. The system is more sophisticated than that. Judges are part of the elite. Their entire careers depend on reading the desires of the political system. Their professional ethics and the international reputation of the Canadian legal system should be the balancing forces. Political and class alliances unfortunately also play in the balance. I have been shocked by the apparent bias and contrived nature of the Hainey ruling, in the face of logic and accepted legal principles. But I have seen similar rulings in politically charged circumstances, such as a recent case where a member of parliament legitimately sued then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his office. It is a great disappointment to me, as a scholar and concerned Canadian, to note that there has not been a wave of criticism of the Hainey ruling from jurists and law professors, or from virtually any Canadian public intellectuals. The very fabric of international relations is being eroded by rogue Canadian politicians and condoned by apparently biased judges while the supposed intelligentsia is silent.
Q: Canada labels Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Everyone with an inkling political and military knowledge is privy to the fact that the Lebanese resistance movement is fighting against terrorist regimes in the region, Israel in particular. Moreover, it is no secret to anyone that Ottawa and Tel Aviv have special relations. It is clearly evident that the ruling is in line with the Israeli regime’s interests as well. What do you think?
A: I think that these US and Canadian laws that violate the international law of sovereignty are intended as what I would call “propaganda by statute”, while manipulating and using ordinary people and their families. The state resources that are used in these kangaroo-court trials and enforcement procedures far outweigh the amounts that can be extorted. If the US and Canada authentically wanted to prevent terrorism and help individual victims, then they would do four things: (1) abolish these laws and instead respect international principles of state equality, sovereignty, and immunity, (2) stop practicing their vicious campaigns of “regime-change” by overt and covert wars, and by using brutal sanctions against entire populations, (3) pressure their so-called allies to stop practicing and funding both war and terrorism, and (4) setup programs to justly compensate the victims of conflict, and to justly treat their own veterans and struggling citizens.
The other thing that must be said is that any population or state that is terrorized by a conventional technologically advanced army, and that does not have a comparable army, can only resort to low-tech acts of deterrence, in self-defence against a committed invader or occupier. The so-called “anti-terrorism laws” conveniently define terrorism such as to include the typical acts that are the only deterrence possible for asymmetrically attacked populations while excluding all the acts of state-run and state-funded military aggressions. The attacking states then go on to aggressively prosecute select acts of “terrorism”, while not prosecuting their own acts of war and war crimes, not to mention the collective punishments of economic sanctions. In this regard, Canadian and US hypocrisy and double standards are obscene. Canada and the US do not open their courts for civil litigation from victims of their overt and covert military and economic violence, and would never recognize such rulings made in foreign jurisdictions, or even international courts.
Q: In yet another pro-US-Israeli move and diplomatic offensive against Iran, the Justin Trudeau government will lead a United Nations effort this fall to single out Iran for its human rights record. However, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported recently that activists with the Walk 4 Justice initiative had collected at least 4,232 names of missing or murdered indigenous women. Ottawa has been increasingly pressed for answers concerning the cases of death or disappearance that occurred between 1980 and 2012. As you know, aboriginals account for nearly 4.3 percent of Canada’s population of over 35 million. The community struggle with poverty and desperation as well as high rates of crime. Kindly share your thoughts with us on this issue as well.
A: The US and Canada are based on the single largest genocide in human history: The genocide of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, which was vicious and virtually total in the US and Canada. Prior to the invasions of Europeans, some 100 million people inhabited the Americas. The surviving populations are devastated and systemically suppressed. Canada followed through with forcible land occupation, destruction of the aboriginal economy based on animal herds, forced segregation and elimination of the children, and reproductive sterilization. Even the sled dogs of the Inuit peoples were systematically slaughtered. To this day, the aboriginals are deprived of their status and limited to inadequate government-defined reserves, with constant manipulation of their internal affairs. The Canadian legal system has shown nothing but bias and contempt in rebuffing all the legal claims of the aboriginal peoples; again in violation of constitutional principles, as authoritatively documented in the writings of Dr. Bruce Allan Clark, who is a now retired jurist and lawyer.
Regarding human rights violations, the US and Canada have no lessons to give. Their jails are overcrowded with citizens. The bail system systemically denies constitutional rights. Physical isolation that amounts to torture is widely used. Jail sentences are disproportionate and there is no rehabilitation. The police summarily attack and murder black, aboriginal, and economically excluded citizens on the streets and in detention. A Black man was summarily murdered by police in my own neighbourhood in Canada’s capital city Ottawa just days ago. Police entrapment and its organizing of citizens to commit criminal acts are routine. Critical political expression is criminalized and prosecuted. A defamation law that is contrary to international law is in wide application to silence any influential voices. A family court system and state-empowered family “services” conspire to attack the families of the working and economically-excluded classes, with absolute power and virtually no oversight. An immigration authority simply jails applicants for indeterminate periods. Legal fees are beyond access for ordinary litigants, thus ensuring that the courts can only be used by wealthy individuals and corporations. When corporations go bankrupt the creditors get legal priority and employee pensions are effectively robbed with government blessings. Corporations and foreign and domestic investors hold local governments to ransom and devastate communities at will with closures, relocations, and property “development”. The list is a long one. The negative impact on the Canadian social fabric is immeasurable.