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Israeli democracy may not survive a ‘reform’ of its Supreme Court

(JTA) — On Dec. 29, Israel swore in Benjamin Netanyahu’s sixth government. The Likud leader became Israel’s prime minister once more, and one week later, Israel’s long-anticipated judicial counterrevolution began.

In the Knesset Wednesday, newly minted Justice Minister and Netanyahu confidant Yariv Levin unveiled a package of proposed legislation that would alter the balance of power between Israel’s legislature and its Supreme Court.

At the core of this plan is a bill to allow the Knesset to override the Supreme Court. Levin’s proposals — which almost certainly have the immediate support of a Knesset majority, regardless of Levin’s assurances that they would be subject to “thorough debate” — would pave the way for Israel’s new government to pass legislation that curtails rights and undermines the rule of law, dealing a blow to Israeli democracy.

The dire implications of this proposed judicial reform are rooted in key characteristics of the Israeli political system that set it apart from other liberal democracies. Israel has no constitution to determine the balance of power between its various branches of government. In fact, there is no separation between Israel’s executive and legislative branches, given that the government automatically controls a majority in the parliament. 

Instead, it has a series of basic laws enacted piecemeal over the course of the state’s history that have a quasi-constitutional status, with the initial intention that they would eventually constitute a de jure constitution. 

Through the 1980s, the Knesset passed basic laws that primarily served to define state institutions, such as the country’s legislature and electoral system, capital and military. In the 1990s, there was a paradigm shift with the passage of two basic laws that for the first time concerned individuals’ rights rather than institutions, one on Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) and the other on Freedom of Occupation (1994). These laws enshrined rights to freedom of movement, personal freedom, human dignity and others to all who reside in Israel. 

Aharon Barak, the president of Israel’s Supreme Court from 1995 to 2006, argued that these laws constituted a de facto bill of rights, empowering the court to review Knesset legislation and to strike down laws that violate civil liberties, a responsibility not explicitly bestowed upon the court in the basic law pertaining to the judiciary. In 1995, the Supreme Court officially ruled that it could indeed repeal legislation that violates the country’s basic laws, heralding an era of increased judicial activism in Israel in what became known as the “judicial revolution.” The court has struck down 20 laws since, a fairly modest number compared to other democracies.

The judicial revolution of the 1990s shifted the balance of power in Israel’s political system from one of parliamentary sovereignty, in which the Knesset enjoyed ultimate power, to one in which the legislature is restricted from violating the country’s (incomplete) constitution. Israel’s Supreme Court became a check on the legislative branch in a country that lacks other checks and balances and separations of power.

As a result of these characteristics, the Supreme Court currently serves as one of the only checks on the extraordinary power of Israel’s 120-member Knesset — which is why shifting that balance of power would have such a dramatic impact on Israel’s democracy.

Levin’s proposed judicial overhaul includes several elements that would weaken the power and independence of Israel’s Supreme Court. The plan includes forbidding the Supreme Court from deliberating on and striking down basic laws themselves. It would require an unspecified “special majority” of the court to strike down legislation, raising the threshold from where it currently stands. 

Levin has also called for altering the composition of the selection committee that appoints top judges to give the government, rather than legal professionals, a majority on the panel. It would allow cabinet ministers to appoint legal advisors to act on their behalf, rather than that of the justice ministry, canceling these advisors’ role as safeguards against government overreach. Should a minister enact a decision that contravenes a basic law, the ministry’s legal advisor would no longer report the violation to the attorney general, and would instead merely offer non-binding legal advice to the minister. 

The pièce de résistance is, of course, the override clause that would allow the Knesset to reinstate laws struck down by the Supreme Court by 61 members of Knesset, a simple majority assuming all members are present. The sole restriction on this override would be a provision preventing the Knesset from re-legislating laws struck down unanimously, by all 15 judges, within the same Knesset term. 

This plan’s obvious and most immediate result would be the effective annulment of the quasi-constitutional status of Israel’s basic laws. If the Knesset’s power to legislate is no longer bound by basic laws, these de facto constitutional amendments no longer have any teeth. There are no guardrails preventing any Knesset majority from doing as it wishes, including violating basic human rights. The Knesset could pass laws openly curtailing freedom of the press or gender equality, for example, should it choose to do so.

This counterrevolution, in effect, goes further than merely undoing what occurred in the 1990s.

Most crucially, the Knesset that would once again enjoy full parliamentary sovereignty in 2022 is not the Knesset of Israel’s first four decades. Shackling the Supreme Court is essential to the agendas of the new government’s various ultra-right and ultra-religious parties. For example, the haredi Orthodox parties are eager to re-legislate a blanket exemption to the military draft for their community, which the court struck down in 2017 on the grounds that it was discriminatory. They also have their sights on revoking recognition of non-Orthodox conversions for immigrants to Israel, undoing a court decision from 2021

The far-right, Jewish supremacist parties of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, meanwhile, see an opportunity to deal a decisive blow to an institution that has long served as a check on the settlement movement. They hope to tie the court’s hands in the face of oncoming legislation to retroactively legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land, which are illegal under Israeli law. But this is only the beginning: Neutering the authority of the court could pave the way for legal discrimination against Israel’s Arab minority, such as Ben-Gvir’s proposal to deport minorities who show insufficient loyalty. 

The timing of Levin’s announcement Wednesday could not be more germane. The Knesset recently amended the basic law to legalize the appointment of Aryeh Deri, the Shas party leader who is serving a suspended sentence for tax fraud, as a minister in the new government. The Supreme Court convened Thursday morning to hear petitions against his appointment from those arguing that it is “unreasonable” to rehabilitate Deri given his multiple criminal convictions, a view shared by Israel’s attorney general. Levin’s proposals would bar the court from using this “reasonability” standard. 

The Israeli right has long chafed at the power of the Supreme Court, which it accuses of having a left-wing bias. But a judicial overhaul like this has never enjoyed the full support of the government, nor was Netanyahu previously in favor of it. Now, with a uniformly right-wing government and Netanyahu on trial for corruption, the prime minister’s foremost interest is appeasing his political partners and securing their support for future legislation to shield him from prosecution.

In a system where the majority rules, there need to be mechanisms in place to protect the rights of minorities — political, ethnic and religious. Liberal democracy requires respect for the rule of law and human rights. Yariv Levin’s proposals to fully subordinate the Supreme Court to the Knesset will concentrate virtually unchecked power in the hands of a few individuals — government ministers and party leaders within the coalition who effectively control what the Knesset does. That those individuals were elected in free and fair elections is no guarantee that the changes they make will be democratic. 


The post Israeli democracy may not survive a ‘reform’ of its Supreme Court appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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