Kattenburg v. Attorney General of Canada, 2019 FC 1003 (Fed. Ct. Ont., July 29, 2019).

The Federal Court of Canada Ruled that ‘Product of Israel’ Labels on Wines Produced in Communities in Judea and Samaria are “False, Misleading and Deceptive.”

[1] Wines produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank are sold in Canada labelled as “Products of Israel”. Dr. David Kattenburg, a wine lover and activist, filed a complaint with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), asserting that such labels are incorrect as the wines in question are produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, or what Dr. Kattenburg calls “the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

[2] The CFIA initially agreed with Dr. Kattenburg’s position. However, it subsequently reversed its decision, concluding that the wines could be sold as currently labelled. Dr. Kattenburg appealed this latter decision to the CFIA’s Complaints and Appeals Office (CAO). His appeal raised concerns with respect to the quality of the service that had been provided to him in the course of the complaints process, as well as with the application of the country of origin labelling requirements.

[3] The CAO determined that the service-related component of Dr. Kattenburg’s complaint was justified, as the CFIA had failed to keep him informed while his complaint was being processed. Insofar as the substance of Dr. Kattenburg’s complaint was concerned, the CAO noted that the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, Can TS 1997 No 49, defines Israeli “territory” as including areas where Israel’s customs laws are applied. As Israel’s customs laws are applied in the West Bank, the CAO concluded that there was no reason to request that the CFIA reconsider its decision, affirming that wines produced in the West Bank could be imported and sold in Canada labelled as “Products of Israel”.

[4] Dr. Kattenburg seeks judicial review of the CAO’s decision, asserting that it erred in determining that “Product of Israel” labels on wines produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank complied with Canadian law.

[5] While there is profound disagreement between those involved in this matter as to the legal status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, I do not need to resolve that question in this case. Whatever the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank may be, all of the parties and interveners agree that the settlements in issue in this case are not part of the State of Israel. Consequently, labelling the settlement wines as “Products of Israel” is both inaccurate and misleading, with the result that the CAO’s decision affirming that settlement wines may be so labelled was unreasonable.