The government is fighting an appeal by Eliyahu Yoshua Veffer, a Jerusalem-born Toronto man who wants to have the birthplace on his passport listed as Jerusalem, Israel.
His request was denied in 2004, because Canada is among many countries that do not recognize Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, as belonging to either. Any passports listing Jerusalem as a birthplace do not add a country to the location.
"The international reality is that there is no sovereign (over Jerusalem) that has been recognized in international law," federal lawyer Sharlene Telles-Langdon told the Federal Court of Appeal in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Allowing Veffer's request could be seen by some Arab countries as taking sides in the Middle East dispute, Telles-Langdon argued, and could lead to trouble for Canadians abroad.
She told the Appeal Court the government would have "some immediate security concerns" if Veffer's request were granted.
The federal government allows Canadians born in other countries the option of listing their city or country of origin, or both.
Those born in Jerusalem can list either the city or their country - in Veffer's case, Israel - but not both. The United States has a similar requirement.
Veffer's lawyer argued the rule is an infringement of his client's charter rights. "His equality rights and his religious rights are being violated," David Matas said. "It affects his sense of himself, his identity, his view of who he is."