NEWSLETTER: January 2024

Editors – Allen Mendelsohn, Larry Markowitz and Stephanie Perlis

President’s Message

Robert Steinman, President

(cliquez ici pour lire le mot du président en français)

Dear Colleagues, Honourable Judges, and Friends of the Society,

I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy new year. I sincerely hope that 2024 improves upon the very difficult end of 2023. We must prepare, however, for continued difficult days. It is during these times that our strong and united Jewish legal community and our valued allies all shine through.

I am proud to be Society President this year and to witness the collaboration that various community groups are engaging in –  particularly in the face of an onslaught of antisemitism in the last few months.

Annual Student Dinner

On Tuesday, January 30, 2024, we will hold our Annual Student Dinner. On this occasion, the Society is thrilled to welcome noted human rights expert Tamara Thermitus, Ad. E., former Chair of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse and a visiting fellow at McGill University’s Faculty of Law, for a “fireside” chat with Society member and criminal defence attorney Lauren Shadley, partner at Shadley Knerr. Their conversation is entitled “Restorative Justice, Restoring Justice” and promises to be an engaging and challenging foray into alternative modes of justice that will no doubt call on each speaker’s unique experience. For Me Thermitus’s part, she negotiated the nature and scope of the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in her role as the Government of Canada’s chief negotiator, while Me. Shadley has significant experience representing defendants in criminal cases in Nunavut and served as President of the Law Society of Nunavut.

Our Annual Student dinner is also when we welcome law students, stagiaires and Barreau students, and present the Lord Reading Law Society annual academic prizes to the deserving winners of McGill, Université de Montréal, UQAM, Université de Sherbrooke and University of Ottawa. I look forward to welcoming the award recipients, as well as representatives from each law faculty.

The event has been approved by the Barreau du Quebec for 1 hour of CLE accreditation. I would like to thank Shadley Knerr and Lapointe Rosenstein Marchand Melançon for their generous sponsorship of the evening.

You can register for the student dinner here.

Save the Date!

I am pleased to announce that our 75th Anniversary Gala will take place on April 4. We have an amazing program lined up which will be announced shortly, but I wanted to make sure you marked your calendars for what is sure to be a memorable evening!

Robert Steinman, President 2023-24
The Lord Reading Law Society

Navigating International Law: An Israeli Diplomat’s Perspective in Challenging Times

Larry Markowitz

On November 27, 2023, the Society hosted the Consul General of Israel in Montreal at our annual Henry Steinberg Memorial Lecture.

In one of the more emotional dinners in the annals of the Lord Reading Law Society, Consul General Ambassador Paul Hirschson delivered a poignant lecture entitled “Navigating International Law: An Israeli Diplomat’s Perspective in Challenging Times” before a packed house with representation from many of Montreal’s most prominent law firms.

Ambassador Hirschson’s talk came in the aftermath of the October 7th terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel. Known for his forthright approach, our guest speaker, a self-described “diplomat who is rarely accused of being diplomatic”, delivered a master class on the law of armed conflict, while touching on geopolitical aspects of the conflict.

He emphasized that the year 2023 is not 1943. The Jewish people now have agency. We have a state. We are no longer victims.

Following the October 7th attacks, Israel decided that it could no longer bear to have Hamas as its neighbour.

Israel’s war against Hamas has three clearly stated objectives:

  1. Rescue the hostages – every single one of them
  2. End the Hamas military threat
  3. End the rule of Hamas in Gaza

Meanwhile, Israel aims to prevent conflict escalation with other groups, notably Hezbollah.

The Consul General underscored Israel’s commitment to international law, particularly the principle of distinction, which obliges combatants to differentiate between civilians and fellow combatants during attacks. He contrasted Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian harm with Hamas’ tactics of using human shields and targeting members of its own civilian population who respond to Israeli warnings of impending military manoeuvres.

Ambassador Hirschson also spoke to the principle of proportionality in warfare, where Israel strives to limit civilian collateral damage relative to the military gain. He touched upon the internal displacement issues facing Israel’s northern and southern populations due to ongoing border conflicts.

The Consul General shed light on Iran’s backing of Hamas and the potential for Israel to formalize relations with Saudi Arabia. He also addressed the surge of anti-Israel sentiment post-October 7th, that has manifested itself in street protests worldwide, including on university campuses and here in Montreal.

Concluding his lecture, out guest speaker emphasized that the people of Gaza are not the enemy; rather, Hamas is. He acknowledged the heavy toll on civilians caught in the crossfire, with loss of life and long-term psychological trauma. He predicted a lengthy healing process for those affected.

[Editor Allen’s note – the speaker was thanked by this report’s author, Society past president and my newsletter co-editor Larry Markowitz, who is too humble to note that his wonderful and eloquent thank you truly reflected the emotional response of the audience that evening.]

For a full set of pictures from the event, please click here

Lord Reading’s 75th Anniversary Human Rights Essay Contest

Neil Hazan, on behalf of the Essay Committee

In celebration of our 75th Anniversary, the Society is thrilled to announce the launch our Human Rights Essay Contest! Embrace the opportunity to express your thoughts and insights in either English or French, crafting an essay of a maximum of 2,000 words that addresses your perspective on the most pressing human rights issues relevant to current Canadian law.

Student contributors placing first, second, and third will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $600 and $400, respectively, as well as a Society membership for the year, plus free admission to two Society events. A matching set of prizes (same amounts, same free membership and two free admissions) will be awarded to contributors in the professional category.

Full details and submission guidelines are available on the contest page.

Remembering the Life and Legacy of Past President Justice Fred Kaufman CM FRSC KC (May 7, 1924 – December 27, 2023)

Larry Markowitz

It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the passing of Justice Fred Kaufman, CM FRSC KC, a revered member of our legal community and a Past President of the Society. His loss leaves a void that will be hard to fill, but his remarkable contributions to jurisprudence will forever be remembered.

His judgments were renowned for their clarity, rigorous reasoning, and profound respect for justice. His work left an indelible mark on Canadian law and will continue to influence future generations of legal practitioners.

Beyond the bench, Justice Kaufman was instrumental in shaping legal reform. His work on the Guy Paul Morin inquiry, which exposed systemic flaws leading to wrongful convictions, was pivotal in driving change and safeguarding the rights of all Canadians.

* * *

Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna in the mid-twenties, Justice Kaufman managed to leave his native city on one of the last trains to freedom before the outbreak of World War II. He found refuge in England, but in May 1940, along with thousands of others, he was interned as an enemy alien and sent to Canada.

He was released in 1942, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Bishop’s University and then spent six years as a reporter for the Montreal Star.

He graduated from McGill’s Faculty of Law in 1954, where he served as the second-ever editor-in-chief of the McGill Law Journal. He was called to the Bar of Quebec in 1955, having stood first in the Bar Admission Course.

Following law school, he co-founded the firm of Kaufman, Yarosky & Fish, where he practised criminal law for 18 years and took part in many of the famous cases of that period.

In 1960, he secured the release of a young Pierre Elliott Trudeau from prison, and in 1973, Trudeau returned the favour by personally informing Justice Kaufman of his appointment to the Quebec Court of Appeal, the first Jewish Justice appointed to that court. He went on to serve on the bench for 18 years, including one as Acting Chief Justice of Quebec.

After his retirement from the Court in 1991, Justice Kaufman led numerous commissions and inquiries.

His investigation into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin was followed by the two-year reassessment of Steven Truscott’s 1959 conviction for murder. In a “monumental” 700-page report, Justice Kaufman recommended that the Ontario Court of Appeal reopen the Truscott case to permit a full appeal. The federal minister of justice agreed, and a special five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal began hearing the fresh evidence in mid-2006. A year later, it acquitted Truscott outright.

In his “retirement” years, Justice Kaufman also led an inquiry into the Public Prosecution Service of Nova Scotia, an inquiry into Nova Scotia’s Compensation Scheme for victims of abuse in residential schools, and an examination of safety issues in Ontario’s nuclear plants.

In 2005, he published his memoir Searching for Justice: An Autobiography.

* * *

Justice Kaufman’s wisdom, integrity, and dedication to the rule of law have inspired countless lawyers and judges, and his legacy will continue to resonate within our Society. As we mourn the loss of Justice Kaufman, let us honour his memory by upholding the values he held dear and continuing to advocate for justice, fairness, and the rule of law.

The Society extends its sincere condolences to the entire Kaufman family. May his memory be a blessing and a source of inspiration to us all.

Save the Date – The Society’s 75th Anniversary Gala is Almost Upon Us!

Allen Mendelsohn

Mark your calendars for April 4th. We have an amazing, special evening planned and you don’t want to miss it!

Who is in the Dock? Israel, Gaza, Hamas War, and International Law

A look back at our members-only CLE Lunch with Arsen Ostrovsky, by Larry Markowitz

On January 19th, the Society had the honour of hosting esteemed human rights attorney Arsen Ostrovsky for an enlightening members-only luncheon at Fasken’s impressive 35th-floor conference centre.

Mr. Ostrovsky, a renowned expert in international law and antisemitism, and CEO of the International Legal Forum, shared his insights in a talk entitled, “Who is in the Dock? Israel, Gaza, Hamas War, and International Law.”

Mr. Ostrovsky boasts a wealth of experience, having addressed prestigious platforms such as the United Nations, Members of Congress, the European Parliament, and various international tribunals.

Known for his influential social media presence, his insights reach between 50 and 100 million people each month, depending on whether it’s a “good month” (when Israel is not being attacked in the court of public opinion) or a “bad month” (when Israel is being targeted).

Unfortunately, this has been a bad month.

As it happened, Mr. Ostrovsky’s had just been at The Hague to observe the hearings at International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding South Africa’s accusations of ‘genocidal conduct’ against Israel, rooted in the United Nations’ 1948 Genocide Convention. A ruling on such matter can take a few years, but South Africa is asking for emergency provision to halt Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

Mr. Ostrovsky recounted what he witnessed in The Hague as a surreal “Orwellian experience on steroids,” where the term ‘genocide’—coined by Jewish-Polish human rights lawyer and later Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Raphael Lemkin to describe the Holocaust—was misused against Israel, an alarming example of ‘lawfare’ intended to undermine Israel’s legitimacy.

The bar to prove genocidal intent is very high. Not every act of war is genocidal. Far from it.

However, the current proceedings center on South Africa’s request for “provisional measures”. On that issue, the bar is low. South Africa need only prove the “plausibility” of its accusations before the ICJ bench of 17 judges, many of whom hail from countries that are unfriendly to Israel.

A ruling is expected shortly.

While a provisional order by the ICJ would carry little enforceable weight, it would have the potential to inflict significant reputational harm upon Israel and affec the Jewish community worldwide. A negative outcome could invigorate protests and bolster the BDS movement, while diluting the gravity of the term ‘genocide.’

“If everything is a genocide, then nothing is a genocide.”

Israel is not disputing the damage in Gaza. The question is: Who is responsible?

Israel obviously attributes the damage to Hamas, which uses civilians as human shields in a cynical attempt to make Israel look bad in the court of world opinion.

Unlike nearly all other armies, the Israeli Defence Forces telegraph their moves in advance to minimize civilian harm in pursuit of a clear two-pronged goal: To rescue the 136 hostages and destroy Hamas’ capabilities.

Unlike Hamas, Israel has not expressed a genocidal intent of seeking to destroy a people.

Mr. Ostrovsky concluded by reminding us that, as lawyers, we have a voice, and we have power. Lawyers can communicate the substance of the law and how the law is to be applied. Lawyers belong to one of the few professions with the power to be agents of change.

Despite the wintry chill of Montreal, our guest’s heart was warmed by the knowledge that he was surrounded by allies in his life’s mission to pursue justice.

For a full set of pictures from the event, please click here

Your Membership

Hershie Frankel, Membership Chair

I encourage all of you to sign up for membership for the season, it is never too late! Your membership support will ensure the continued success of the Society, grant you access to our members-only events, and give you significant discounts on tickets for dinner-meetings.

In these difficult times, having a robust membership is important for the Society. You can sign up for membership online here.

Society Humour

News from the Mishpocha

Mazel Tov

  • To Board member Neil Hazan on the birth of his daughter
  • To past Society guest speaker The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney on receiving the World Jewish Congress’ Theodor Herzl Award. You can watch the video of his speech here

Sincere Condolences

  • To Past President Andrew Kliger and his entire family on the loss of his father and longtime Society member and dear friend Leonard Kliger
  • To Past President Lynne Kassie, Ad. E., on the loss of her mother Naomi Kassie
  • To Past President Inna Nekhim on the loss of her grandmother Sarra Nekhim