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B’nai Brith Applauds Appointment of New Government Envoy to Fight Antisemitism

November 25, 2020
B’nai Brith Canada
OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is applauding the federal government’s announcement Thursday that it will establish a position to help combat antisemitism.

After many years of B’nai Brith advocacy calling for such a position to be created, the government indicated that it will appoint human-rights expert and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler as its first Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism.

B’nai Brith warmly welcomes this decision and applauds the selection of Mr. Cotler as an excellent choice.

Mr. Cotler will begin the role with a broad mandate, and will take time consulting with Jewish community leaders and organizations to develop specific plans of action on various issues. He will also become the head of Canada’s delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and will represent our country at the upcoming plenary in Germany. His immediate priorities will include addressing Holocaust denial and distortion, as well as strengthening domestic efforts to implement the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

Mr. Cotler will work both internationally and domestically across Canadian departments and agencies, as well as with civil society. He will also be tasked with regularly advising the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, as well as other ministers as needed. The latter is responsible for the government’s Anti-Racism Strategy.

“This announcement is a major step forward in the fight against antisemitism in Canada and shows a much-needed seriousness in our government’s commitment to this promise,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We very much look forward to working with Mr. Cotler in his new role.”

B’nai Brith’s Eight-Point Plan to Tackle Antisemitism calls for the adoption of a coordinated government action plan to fight antisemitism, and several of our policy papers and public letters encourage the appointment of a special envoy to oversee that process. National action plans to combat antisemitism have already been adopted in Norway and France, and the United States has created an Office to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

Irwin Cotler has a long history of working with the Jewish community and advocating for human rights around the globe. After serving for many years as the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal and then as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Cotler founded the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights — which he has headed ever since. He has frequently worked closely with B’nai Brith on issues such as combating the human-rights abuses of the Iranian regime.

“Mr. Cotler is a very qualified individual to take up this post, one we have long called essential,” said Brian Herman, B’nai Brith Canada’s Director of Government Relations. “We thank the government for this decision. His voice will be extremely valuable in confronting the scourge of antisemitism both at home and abroad.”