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All Levels of Government Must Adopt IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

B’nai Brith Canada

June 24, 2019

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is reiterating its long-held position for the Government of Canada and for the governments of Canada’s provinces, territories and municipalities, to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

Canada, while an important member of IHRA, has not formally adopted the working definition for domestic purposes, although it has expressed strong support for the definition.

The IHRA definition is applied in the Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, produced by B’nai Brith’s advocacy arm, The League for Human Rights. As an illustration of B’nai Brith’s commitment to IHRA and its work, it supports a member of Canada’s delegation to IHRA plenary meetings. B’nai Brith’s current representative on Canada’s delegation is renowned lawyer and Order of Canada recipient David Matas.

B’nai Brith’s full proposal calls for the government to lead by example by indicating it will apply the IHRA definition in key government activities such as the collection of statistical data and in application of its law-enforcement agencies.

There are five key reasons to adopt the IHRA working definition: 

1.       It is the most universally accepted, and expertly driven definition of antisemitism available today. It enjoys unprecedented consensus.

2.       This definition allows for elected officials, government departments and agencies, academics, law enforcement, civil society organizations, and the public at large to be on the same page in identifying and understanding the phenomenon of antisemitism, in accordance with an increasing number of jurisdictions around the world. It provides clarity on what antisemitism is and how it manifests, so that it can be more easily combated both nationally and internationally.

3.       It recognizes the antisemitism that masks itself as anti-Zionism, without quelling legitimate criticisms of the State of Israel. It upholds the rights and freedoms of Canadians to express their diverse viewpoints while clarifying what viewpoints constitute antisemitism without infringing upon those rights.

4.       Global Affairs and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have already employed the definition for their own departmental purposes, so there is precedent for its use by every government and agency.

5.       In many outside jurisdictions where it has been employed, we have seen an improvement in efforts to combat antisemitism when it arises, demonstrating the benefits that clarity of the definition provides to local Jewish and general communities.

Using this definition would bring Canada in line with decisions by other jurisdictions around the world and international and intergovernmental bodies such as the EU Parliament and the Organization of American States. Adoption of the definition would also be consistent with the Ottawa Protocol for Combating Antisemitism, an international declaration of Parliamentarians who met in Canada as long ago as 2010.

For B’nai Brith’s detailed proposal on acceptance of the IHRA definition, click here.