David Matas

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David Matas
Born (1943-08-29) 29 August 1943 (age 80)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

David Matas CM (born 29 August 1943) is the senior legal counsel of B'nai Brith Canada who currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has maintained a private practice in refugee, immigration, and human rights law since 1979, and has published various books and manuscripts.

Criticizing impunity for human rights abuses, Matas stated: "Nothing emboldens a criminal so much as the knowledge he can get away with a crime."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

David Matas was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba; his grandparents were immigrants from Ukraine and Romania.[citation needed] He obtained a B.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1964, and a Master of Arts from Princeton University in 1965. In 1967, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Jurisprudence) from the University of Oxford, England, and in 1968 he obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law. In 1969, he became a Middle Temple United Kingdom Barrister, and he joined the Bar of Manitoba in 1971.


Government work[edit]

Matas served as a Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of Canada in 1968–69, and was a member of the Foreign Ownership Working Group, Government of Canada, and was special assistant to the Solicitor General of Canada in 1971–72.

He served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, the Task Force on Immigration Practices & Procedures, the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Conference on an International Criminal Court 1998, the Canadian Delegation to the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and from 1997 until 2003, the Director of the International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development. On 13 November 2009, Matas was appointed to the board of this centre, also known as Rights and Democracy (R&D), which was headed by Professor Aural Braun. Shortly afterwards, a number of illicit actions by the staff of R&D and secret grants to radical organizations were exposed,[2][3] and Matas joined Braun in initiating a major investigation.[4] As a result of the investigations, funding was cut and in 2012, the government closed the Rights and Democracy framework.

Teaching work[edit]

Matas has also taught constitutional law at McGill University, Introductory Economics, Canadian Economic Problems, International Law, Civil Liberties, and Immigration & Refugee Law, at the University of Manitoba.


David Matas ran for the House of Commons of Canada in the 1979 and 1980 federal elections as a Liberal candidate in Winnipeg—Assiniboine district and came in second place both times.

In 2009, Matas was a signatory to a letter opposing the appointment of Christine Chinkin to a UN Human Rights Council fact finding mission on the 2008-2009 Gaza War (also known as the Goldstone Commission), alleging that Chinkin signed a prejudicial letter that indicated that, without examining the evidence, she "concluded that Israel was acting contrary to international law."[5] Chinkin did not resign, and endorsed the UN report, which was later denounced as biased and ill-informed by one of its authors, Judge Goldstone. The report's other authors stand by its content and criticized Goldstone's reversal of position on it.

In his book "Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism", Matas accused critics of Israel's post-1967 war policies regarding the West Bank of having double standards in not also criticizing China's occupation of Tibet.[6]

Human rights work[edit]

Nothing emboldens a criminal so much as the knowledge he can get away with a crime. That was the message the failure to prosecute for the Armenian massacre gave to the Nazis. We ignore the lesson of the Holocaust at our peril.

—Matas in 1989[7][1]

He has been actively involved as Director of the International Defence & Aid Fund for South Africa in Canada, Director of Canada-South Africa Cooperation, Co-chair Canadian Helsinki Watch Group, Director Manitoba Association of Rights & Liberties, Amnesty International, B'nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists, Canadian Jewish Congress, and Canadian Council for Refugees.[citation needed]

He represented Lai Changxing in his extradition proceedings.[8]

He is also counsel for Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and is co-author of "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress".

He presented various papers on the legal issue of prosecuting war criminals in Bangladesh.[citation needed]

Organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China[edit]

In 2006, with David Kilgour he released the Kilgour-Matas report,[9] which stated "the source of 41,500 transplants for the six year period 2000 to 2005 is unexplained" and "we believe that there has been and continues today to be large scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners".[9] In 2009, they published an updated version of the report as a book.[10] They visited about 50 countries to raise awareness of the situation.[11] Later Matas stated, "We estimate in the period between 2000 and 2005, there were 41,500 transplants which have no other explained source".[12]

In 2012, State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China, edited by Matas and Torsten Trey, was published with essays from Gabriel Danovitch, Professor of Medicine,[13] Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics,[14] Jacob Lavee, cardiothoracic surgeon,[15] Ghazali Ahmad,[16] Maria Fiatarone Singh,[17] Torsten Trey,[18] Ethan Gutmann and Matas.[19][20][21][22]

Ethan Gutmann interviewed over 100 witnesses and estimated that 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners were killed for their organs from 2000 to 2008.[23][24][25][26]

CBA Committee on the Constitution[edit]

Matas is a member of the Canadian Bar Association. In 1977, following the election of the separatist Parti Québécois government the previous year, he was asked to sit on the CBA Committee on the Constitution. The committee's mandate was to study and make recommendations on the Constitution of Canada.[27] The members of the committee were drawn from each province of Canada, and included two future provincial premiers, a future Supreme Court of Canada justice, two future provincial chief justices, and a future Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. The Committee presented its report to the CBA at the next annual meeting, in 1978. The committee made wide-ranging recommendations for constitutional change, including a completely new constitution, abolishing the monarchy, changing the Senate, entrenching language rights and a bill of rights, and changing the balance of powers between the federal government and the provinces.


  • Justice Delayed: Nazi War Criminals in Canada (1987) with Susan Charendoff, ISBN 978-0920197424
  • Closing the Doors: The Failure of Refugee Protection (1989) with Ilana Simon, ISBN 978-0920197813
  • No More: The Battle Against Human Rights Violations (1996), ISBN 978-1550022216
  • Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech (2000), ISBN 978-1553310006
  • Aftershock: Anti-Zionism & Antisemitism (2005), ISBN 978-1550025538
  • Bloody Harvest, The killing of Falun Gong for their organs (2009) with David Kilgour
  • Why Did You Do That?: The Autobiography of a Human Rights Advocate (2015), ISBN 978-1-927079-34-8
  • Durban Conference: Civil Society Smashes Up, Bnai Brith Canada, 2002

Matas has also appeared in the documentaries Red Reign: The Bloody Harvest of China's Prisoners (2013) [28] and Human Harvest (2014).[29]


Matas is the recipient of numerous honours and awards including:[30]

  • Governor-General's Confederation Medal in 1992
  • Outstanding Achievement Award from the Manitoba Association of Rights & Liberties in 1996
  • League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada Midwest Region Human Rights Achievement Award in 1999
  • Vancouver Interfaith Brotherhood Person of the Year 2006
  • Appointed a member of the Order of Canada on October 23, 2008.[31][32]
  • For their organ harvesting work Matas and Kilgour won the 2009 Human Rights Award from the German-based International Society for Human Rights and were nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cassese, Antonio (1998). "Reflections on International Criminal Justice". The Modern Law Review. 61 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1111/1468-2230.00124. ISSN 0026-7961. JSTOR 1097333.
  2. ^ "Replace Rights and Democracy". 2012-06-14. Archived from the original on 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2016-08-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  3. ^ Seligman, Steven; Steinberg, Gerald (2012). The Politics of Canadian Government Funding for Advocacy NGOs. NGO Monitor.
  4. ^ Matas, David (26 February 2010). "The Rights and Democracy twist". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-08-21.
  5. ^ http://blog.unwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/cdn-lawyers-support-recusal-of-biased-un-fact-finder-sept-11-09doc.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  6. ^ Matas, David (2005-09-03). Aftershock: Anti-zionism and Anti-semitism. Dundurn. ISBN 9781550025538.
  7. ^ Dadrian, Vahakn (1998). "The Historical and Legal Interconnections Between the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust: From Impunity to Retributive Justice". Yale Journal of International Law. 23 (2). ISSN 0889-7743.
  8. ^ Bill Benedict (09 August 2009) "China's most wanted man admits guilt", cleveland.com
  9. ^ a b David Kilgour, David Matas (6 July 2006, revised 31 January 2007) An Independent Investigation into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China (free in 22 languages) organharvestinvestigation.net
  10. ^ David Kilgour, David Matas (2009) Bloody Harvest, The killing of Falun Gong for their organs Archived 2014-10-18 at the Wayback Machine p. 232 seraphimeditions.com
  11. ^ a b "Crusader up for Nobel Prize, Lawyer lauded for investigating abuses in China". Winnipeg Free Press. 20 February 2010.
  12. ^ Killed for Organs: China's Secret State Transplant Business (2012) YouTube video, 8 minutes
  13. ^ G Danovitch articles, US National Library of Medicine
  14. ^ AL Caplan articles, US National Library of Medicine
  15. ^ J Lavee articles, US National Library of Medicine
  16. ^ G Ahmad articles, US National Library of Medicine
  17. ^ M Fiatarone Singh articles, US National Library of Medicine
  18. ^ T Trey articles, US National Library of Medicine
  19. ^ "State Organs: Introduction" Archived 2013-05-27 at the Wayback Machine seraphimeditions.com
  20. ^ Rebeca Kuropatwa (19 September 2012) "New Matas book reveals transplant abuse" Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine, Jewish Tribune
  21. ^ Mark Colvin (27 November 2012) "Parliament to hear evidence of transplant abuse in China", Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  22. ^ David Matas, Torsten Trey (2012) State Organs, Transplant Abuse in China Archived 2015-02-24 at the Wayback Machine seraphimeditions.com p. 144
  23. ^ Jay Nordlinger (25 August 2014) "Face The Slaughter: The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem, by Ethan Gutmann" Archived 2017-06-07 at the Wayback Machine, National Review
  24. ^ Viv Young (11 August 2014) "The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem", New York Journal of Books
  25. ^ Barbara Turnbull (21 October 2014) "Q&A: Author and analyst Ethan Gutmann discusses China’s illegal organ trade" The Toronto Star
  26. ^ Ethan Gutmann (August 2014) The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem "Average number of Falun Gong in Laogai System at any given time" Low estimate 450,000, High estimate 1,000,000 p 320. "Best estimate of Falun Gong harvested 2000 to 2008" 65,000 p 322. amazon.com
  27. ^ CBA Resolution 77-01-A: Constitution of Canada - Special Committee; reproduced in Canadian Bar Association: Towards a new Canada - Committee on the Constitution, p. xv.
  28. ^ "Red Reign trailer", (4 minutes) youtube, 30 July 2013
  29. ^ Human Harvest (aka Davids and Goliath) Official Trailer, (2 minutes) youtube, 24 September 2014
  30. ^ "David Matas" Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine Seraphim Editions
  31. ^ General, Office of the Secretary to the Governor (June 11, 2018). "Recipients". The Governor General of Canada.
  32. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". archive.gg.ca.

External links[edit]

  • Biography at University of Winnipeg
  • Biography at Canadian Political Science Students' Association