September 18, 2019

Canada to Adopt IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism

Photo from Flickr.

The Canadian government announced on June 25 that they would be adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, Canadian Jewish News (CJN) reports.

Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez announced the government’s decision as part of their “Anti-Racism Strategy” from 2019-2022.

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) Board of Directors co-chair Jeffrey Rosenthal told CJN, “This is a major milestone in the struggle against anti-Semitism. It sets a strong example and offers a practical tool for authorities – from police and prosecutors, to school principals and campus officials – as they work to tackle anti-Semitism on the ground across Canada.”

House of Common Liberal Members of Parliament Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt wrote in a June 25 CJN Op-ed that the IHRA consists of 32 countries and was established in 1998 to help further Holocaust education and research. In light of anti-Semitism increasing around the globe, including in Canada, it “is absolutely vital” to adopt a formal definition of anti-Semitism, Housefather and Levitt argued.

“Anti-Semitism is unique in that it takes on many forms,” Housefather and Levitt wrote. “We know all too well that anti-Semitism is not confined to any one segment of society or position on the political spectrum. Jews in Canada and around the world have been the victims of hate from white supremacists, religious radicals and those who mask their hatred of Jews with thinly veiled attacks on Israel’s legitimacy.”

They added that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism also includes illegitimate criticism of Israel.

“Too often, anti-Israel rhetoric, like that employed by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, is marked by de-legitimization, demonization and double standards – aspects of discourse that clearly cross the line into anti-Semitism,” Housefather and Levitt wrote. “This happens not only at hateful rallies like the annual Al-Quds Day demonstration in Toronto, but often through the perversion of international institutions to repeatedly and disproportionately condemn the only Jewish state.”

The American Jewish Committee praised the Canadian government’s move in a tweet.

B’nai Brith Canada’s yearly anti-Semitism audit found that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 16.5 percent from 2017 to 2018, hitting a record high for the third straight year.