Editorial: Jewish Jurists Serve to Remind Us of Justice

Sept. 23, 2020 – As Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement approaches, we turn our minds to justice – appropriate, given the recent death of the legendary Jewish American Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justice Ginsburg was a wisp of a woman but whose heart was Olympian and whose soul burned fiercely on behalf of those less fortunate, especially women who have, for much of the past century, been treated like second class citizens in the United States. Her decisions were wise, pointed, and filled with the juice of needed change and progress.

Justice has always played a central role in Judaism. Great Jewish biblical heroes, prophets, and philosophers have pointed to the key Jewish precept, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” (“Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It appears initially in the Book of Deuteronomy and is part of a set of regulations that bestow on the Jewish people a code of moral behaviour.

Why is the word “justice” repeated twice? The Torah is a very precise book. Each word has been measured for meaning and argued over by great rabbis over many centuries. Perhaps the most widely accepted explanation comes from the most broadly respected rabbi of the 11th century, Rashi, who explains that not only must judges make wise decisions, which accounts for the first “tzedek,” but, as importantly, those in a position of choosing judges must also choose wisely, referring to the second “tzedek.” This gives the people comfort knowing that the courts of justice are populated by good and decent people making judicious decisions.

There is another, more modern interpretation. Some believe the second cry of “justice-tzedek” emphasizes the Jewish values of treating the stranger fairly, feeding the poor, and extending love to our neighbours despite our differences.

In North America, Jewish men and women have figured prominently in the choice of judges. To our great fortune and that of society in general, these Jews have embraced their Jewish values of pursuing justice.

Undoubtedly, “Notorious RBG,” as Ginsburg came to be known, was one of many such Jewish jurists who graced courtrooms in the United States and Canada and did so with a Jewish heart. They were perhaps not as well-known, but certainly as deserving.

From Tillie Taylor, Saskatchewan’s first female Jewish magistrate; to Nathaniel Nemetz, former Chief Justice of British Columbia; to Samuel Freedman, Chief Justice of Manitoba. All three played a key role in the jurisprudence of western Canada.

On the east coast, Constance Glube was the first Jewish woman appointed Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.

In Quebec, where antisemitism was more prevalent than elsewhere in Canada, Jews nonetheless held senior judicial positions: Alan Gold was Chief Justice of Quebec’s Superior Court, and Harry Batshaw and Herbert Marx held sway as a Quebec Superior Court justices (Marx had also been Quebec’s justice minister.)

Ontario also saw the appointment of many Jews to the bench, including Charles Dubin as Chief Justice of Ontario; John I. Laskin, a justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and a former legal counsel to Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC); and Sydney Harris, a judge of the Ontario Provincial Court and former national president of CJC.

Today’s Ontario bench features another past president and legal counsel of CJC, Edward Morgan; Justice Katherine Feldman; Justice Paul Perell; and recently appointed Justice Edward Prutschi.

And of course, Canada’s Supreme Court has been positively influenced by some of Canada’s most eminent jurists. Bora Laskin also a former chair of CJC’s legal committee was, famously, the first Jewish Canadian to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Others on the land’s highest court were Rosalie Abella, the first Jewish woman to reach Canada’s high court, as well as Morris Fish, Michael Moldaver, and Marshall Rothstein.

Each of these jurists not only upheld the highest legal ethics, but did so as proud Jews who were raised with the understanding that in the Jewish tradition, justice and atonement are the highest ideals.

We at the Canadian Jewish Record are proud of those in our community who are lights unto the nation. As we encounter a very special, socially-distant Yom Kippur, may we all be judged for our good deeds. And may those we hurt either by deed or word forgive us.

EDITORIAL: Elections Canada Must Shut Down Neo-Nazi Parties

July 15, 2020 – Trevor Patron is at it again. This obscure Prairie citizen from Redvers, Sask., has doubled down on his antisemitism.

From a low last year, when he railed against the “parasitic tribe” (read: Jews) for all of Canada’s imagined problems, this week, in another outburst of Jew-hatred, Patron is calling for the expulsion of Jews from the country. His screed regurgitates the pattern of all past antisemites who sought the ouster of Jews from their midst.

But this is not news. In fact, Patron would not even be worth a mention if it weren’t for this: He is the leader of a political party officially recognized by Elections Canada.

That’s right. In September 2019, Stephane Perrault, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, informed Patron that the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP) had become a registered political party in Canada.

“Your party now has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a registered party under the Canada Elections Act,” Perrault wrote Patron.

This permits Patron’s fledgling band of ne’er-do-wells to run in federal elections and to receive a 75 percent tax return on any donation to the party.

(It might be some consolation to know that the CNP fielded three candidates in the last federal election and received 284 votes in total; statistically, zero percent of ballots cast).

Equally as important, Patron, as a result of a complaint laid by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) on June 26, 2019 (full disclosure: Bernie Farber, publisher of the CJR is chair of CAHN) to the Saskatchewan RCMP, Patron has been under investigation for promotion of hatred against Jews for over a year.

Yes, you read that, too, correctly: Since June of last year.

It seems incredible that the RCMP has been unable since then to reach a conclusion as to whether Patron has breached section 319 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which plainly outlines what public incitement to hatred is.

We would argue that Patron’s unsubtle words and deeds surely warrant quick and deliberate findings.

Following the June 2019 CAHN complaint, B’nai Brith Canada also wrote to the RCMP declaring its outrage, and yet the investigation continues.

Last week, following Patron’s second video, the CAHN sent another letter to the RCMP:

Dear Constable Howe,

Further to my criminal complaint against Travis PATRON filed 26 June 2019, I am writing to bring to your attention further anti-Jewish material that PATRON has published today through his Canadian Nationalist Party Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/NationalistCA/posts/) again repeatedly referring to Jews as parasites, members of the “synagogue of Satan,” that Jews control the central banks, and that they “infect the body politic like a parasite.”

The apparent pamphlet ends with the call, “And what we need to do, perhaps more than anything, is remove these people once-and-for-all from our country.”

I understand that criminal hate propaganda complaints are not commonplace, but the community as a whole and our Jewish brothers and sisters especially have the right to be protected from this corrosive poison and threats in a timely manner.  These are the types of messages that have already been found to meet the test for breaching the Criminal Code.

I urge the RCMP in the strongest possible terms to charge Travis PATRON under s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code for the wilful promotion of hatred against the Jewish community.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible,

Richard Warman
Barrister and Solicitor
Ottawa

This past week both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) along with Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, have followed the lead of CAHN and laid complaints with Saskatchewan RCMP.

The time has come. Canada should be following the example set by Germany, which has developed law ensuring that anti-democratic groups may not gain official political party status.

While Patron and company have displayed almost no political support, it takes far less for those with hate in their hearts to create havoc. Neo-Nazis ought not to be given any respect in this country, and those who violate Canadian hate law should be charged.