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Ottawa sued for Jerusalem policy - Student seeks key passport change Canada won´t print `Israel´ on document (TORONTO STAR) SCOTT ROBERTS 01/27/05)Source: http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1106779811807 TORONTO STAR TORONTO STAR Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A Toronto teenager is taking the federal government to court over its policy that denies citizens born in Jerusalem the right to list Israel as their birth country on Canadian passports.

Eliyahu Yehoshua Veffer, a student at the Hebrew Academy of Toronto, was born in West Jerusalem 17 years ago. He said he sees himself as a proud Israeli Canadian and wants his passport to reflect that.

Currently, it lists Jerusalem as his place of birth. Veffer wants Israel included on the passport.

"I don´t understand why I can´t have my birth country on my passport," said Veffer, who launched legal action against the government yesterday. "I´m proud to have been born in Israel and I don´t think it´s unreasonable to want my place of birth on my passport."

Under current passport regulations, Canadians born in Jerusalem cannot list Israel as their place of birth because of its ongoing classification as a disputed territory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement reacting to the legal challenge.

"The government of Canada, at this time, is not considering changing its policy on the inscription of Jerusalem as place of birth in Canadian passports," the statement said. "Inscriptions such as ´Jerusalem, Israel´ would be contrary to Canada´s Middle East policy and to our policy regarding recognition as well as our obligations under international law."

Veffer´s lawyer, David Matas, also the legal counsel for B´nai Brith Canada, filed the initial application yesterday for the review in a Winnipeg federal court, where Matas lives.

Matas said the government policy is blatantly discriminatory and should be changed immediately.

"I don´t understand why they are taking this stance," Matas said. "My client wants his country of birth on his passport. Everybody else in the world can have it, but the government is denying him the right to do it. It´s discriminatory.

"This is a matter of pride and ethnic identification. It´s part of who they are," he said.

Much of this case hinges on the debate surrounding Jerusalem as disputed territory, and the difference between East and West Jerusalem.

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B´nai Brith Canada, said many governments consider West Jerusalem to be Israeli territory. But the government´s official stance is that neither side of the holy city belongs exclusively to Israel.

Matas said the government policy has been in existence ever since the state of Israel was created in 1948. But it has taken until now for someone to challenge the policy in court.

"Why has no one gone to court over this? I guess for most people it was just too much trouble. Some people don´t have the means to pursue it."

Dimant said his organization is optimistic that the government will amend the policy.

"I´m hopeful the government will do the right thing," he said. "Obviously, it´s discriminatory in practice and it´s a double standard. It´s time to rectify this wrong.

"I do feel confident the minister will receive strong support from the opposition.... Most Canadians will feel it´s appropriate to do the right thing and list Israel next to Jerusalem."

It could take up to eight months for the federal review hearing to begin. Affidavits still need to be submitted by Matas and the federal government.

In the meantime, Veffer is anxiously awaiting the outcome.

"There are 28 Jerusalems in the world," he said. "I´m from the one in Israel. I want the government to recognize that." (Copyright 1996- 2005. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. 01/27/05)

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