Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications in physics education research. Rancourt has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israeli lobby at that institution, which fired him under false pretext in 2009. In an exclusive interview with Khamenei.ir, Rancourt answers questions on Canadian supreme court verdict against Iran, Canada's role in the Syrian crisis and how his activism was suppressed by the Israeli lobby on campus:
Q. Canada’s Ontario Superior Court issued a ruling to confirm a verdict for confiscation of $13 millions of Iranian assets on the allegation that Iran has supported terrorist groups. What’s your take on that?
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 of 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 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 Israeli lobby’s wishes against Iran are bad for Canada and bad for the world.
Overall, 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.
Q. How is it that the Canadian government preaches human rights while having approved a $15-billion deal to sell military arms to Saudi Arabia?
A: Yes, Canada’s willing participation in the US-led war campaigns and collective punishments by economic and trade sanctions, including Saudi Arabia’s unconscionable contributions, removes Canada’s legitimacy and credibility for making any human rights complaints against any other state. All human rights complaints must be independently and objectively judged on the evidence and such complaints should not be motivated by geopolitical goals.
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.
Q. How is Canada complicit in the crisis in Syria and Iraq?
A: In a public relations tactic, the former Liberal government under then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien stated that Canada would not participate in the 2003-2011 US-led war against Iraq. However, Canada actually did participate by several means, and did not condemn this murderous war of aggression. As a close ally of the US, Canada had a moral responsibility to oppose the egregious sanctions and war that destroyed Iraq’s public infrastructure and directly and indirectly murdered more than one million Iraqi citizens. Instead, Canada was complicit.
The war in Syria, from the start, was a US-planned and facilitated effort for “regime change” by violent means. Key US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have recruited, trained, financed, or aided mercenary foreign fighters to invade Syria. The US itself directly trained and funds so-called “moderate rebels” to violently invade the sovereign state of Syria.
Canada has been a willing participant in this latest mass crime against a stable nation, perpetrated under the banner of “regime change” with the false pretext of “bringing democracy”. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of pulling out Canadian fighter jets from the Syrian war zone was a domestic public relations stunt à la Jean Chrétien. Canada has a moral responsibility to oppose the US-condoned campaign against Syria, and Canada shares the responsibility for the war crimes perpetrated by Daesh.
Canada’s acceptance of selected and groomed Syrian refugees is an integral part of the US-led assault against Syria, and provides domestic propaganda. Canada is co-responsible for the Syrian refugee crisis. It is not a benevolent nation in this aggression.
Q. You have been one of the staunch supporters of Palestinians; how have your activism affected your life in Canada?
A: Because I allowed Palestinian speakers and expert critics of Israel and the US into my classroom in a popular social activism course when I was a full and tenured professor, I was attacked by the media and by staged complaints from a campus Israel-lobby group, and internally by a pro-Israeli department head. I was also disciplined and later fired in 2009 by the staunchly pro-Israeli and former federal Minister of Justice president of the university. It did not matter that I won a first grievance that established my academic freedom to invite in-class speakers, the university next used a false pretext of “fraudulent” grading (giving high grades to all the students in one advanced physics course). The matter is now under appeal and still before the courts, thanks to the support of the professors’ union. In addition, in 2011 the university then additionally funded a large defamation lawsuit against me for two 2011 blog articles in which I defended a student report of systemic racism at the university. The university used Canada’s two largest law firms, and the litigation lasted five years, expended all my savings, and produced unpayable court orders against me of over one million dollars. Nonetheless, the university’s shameful efforts have not prevented me from reporting my research and serving Canadians by much needed criticism, as you can see from my words. I have always been a dedicated defender of justice.