TORONTO (Nov. 26)
A Jewish worker, who objected to his union’s expression of support for an independent Palestinian homeland, has been granted an exemption from paying his union dues.
The decision, handed down several days ago by the Ontario Court of Appeals, reversed an earlier lower court ruling that Chaim Forer’s objection to a resolution adopted by the Ontario Federation of Labor supporting a Palestinian homeland was not based on religious grounds and therefore did not entitle him to send his dues to a charity instead of the union.
A section of the Crown Employes Collective Bargaining Act provides that employes can pay union dues to a charity if they object to sending the money to a union “because of religious convictions or belief.”
Forer, an employe of the Ontario provincial government and a member of the Ontario Public Service Employes, said the resolution adopted by the Labor Federation in 1983 was “inimical to every human being in general and every Jew in particular who believes in the eternality of the Jewish people and in their God-given right to the land of Israel.”
He stated that it is “most obnoxious that I, a believer, should be required to pay dues to an organization whose membership in the Ontario Federation of Labor contributes to the Federation’s influence on public opinion in a manner contrary to my beliefs and ideals.”
Appeal court Justice D. G. Blair said in his ruling, “It seems to me that in a multicultural country which Canada has become there will have to be an even greater toleration of a wide variety of religious beliefs and practices than existed before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” He noted that previous Court of Appeal decisions have stressed that what may be regarded as a religious belief by one religion may be regarded as secular by another. The resolution, adopted in the aftermath of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, urged the Canadian Labor Congress, the national trade union body, to call on the Canadian government to support “all avenues toward lasting peace” in the Middle East. It also called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, the recognition of Israel’s right to live within secure borders based on its pre-1967 territory, recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and support for the right of Palestinians to their own homeland.
Ironically, the resolution as it was passed at the Labor Federation’s convention was not agreeable to the union’s leadership and when it was presented to the Canadian Labor Congress, it was rejected.