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A federal policy that bans Canadians from listing Jerusalem, Israel, as their birthplace on their passport does not violate the Charter of Rights, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal has ruled.
In 2006, Eliyahu Veffer, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen born in Jerusalem, requested that the minister of foreign affairs list Israel as his country of birth on his Canadian passport. His request was rejected, and last week a three-judge panel ruled against his appeal.
"Mr. Veffer has not been discriminated against in that his human dignity has not been invaded," the judges wrote. "Mr. Veffer still maintains the freedom to express his faith and his subjectively held views as to the status of Jerusalem, he is just not able to do so in his Canadian passport."
The decision maintains that the ban on listing Israel as the birth country alongside Jerusalem is not discriminatory, despite the fact that Israel is the only country that is banned from being listed when cities in disputed territories are concerned.
The appeals court wrote that Veffer's passport was no more than a travel document showing proof of citizenship and "there is no evidence that the absence of a country name beside Jerusalem hinders his ability to travel in any way."
Veffer immigrated to Canada with his family nine years ago. He is now a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The ruling emphasized that Canada's refusal to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel was consistent with the UN's stance on the issue.
"We are of the view therefore that a reasonable person in the position of Mr. Veffer would consider the special status of Jerusalem under international law and would not be offended by the current Passport Canada policy," the judges wrote.
But according to Veffer's lawyer, David Matas, an honorary senior counsel to B'nai B'rith, the purpose of the court was not to talk about the status of Jerusalem.
"The problem is rather that Canadian policy, which says that you can choose when it comes to disputed territories, does not apply to Israel," he said.
Matas said the reason for this exception was that if Canada allowed choice with regard to Israel, it would compromise its involvement in the peace process.
"This is facetious argumentation, since Canada won the peace prize in the old days when you could put Jerusalem, Israel, on your passport," he said.
Veffer has 90 days from the day of the ruling to appeal to the Supreme Court.
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