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Canada Must Step Up as the United Nations Confronts Antisemitism

October 16, 2019

By Brian Herman
Director of Government Relations
B’nai Brith Canada

OTTAWA – The United Nations will consider a landmark report tomorrow – Thurs., Oct. 17 – on the global threat of antisemitism, prepared by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

B’nai Brith Canada is calling on our next federal government to lead the way in ensuring this report merits the attention it deserves and begins a new process of international action.

This is the first time UN members will address combating antisemitism in a broader campaign to eliminate discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief. Canada, as a multicultural, tolerant and diverse society, can exert leadership by calling out antisemitism for the global scourge it represents. B’nai Brith believes UN members must take concrete steps to protect Jewish communities from hatred.

Canada can provide the impetus for this. In a letter to Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, B’nai Brith has outlined several suggestions for Canada’s statement, including:

  • Declarations and statements are no longer sufficient. It is essential that all countries adopt national action plans to combat antisemitism. B’nai Brith has long advocated its Eight-Point Plan to Tackle Antisemitism.
  • To curb the spread of antisemitic views, national action plans must include concrete steps to strengthen education about antisemitism and other forms of religious discrimination and intolerance. Education must transcend teaching only about Holocaust awareness, as important as that is.
  • There must be commitments by political leaders to speak out strongly against expressions and acts of hatred directed at the Jewish community.
  • Political parties should adopt and enforce ethical guidelines and leaders must promptly, clearly and consistently reject manifestations of antisemitism in their parties’ and in public discourse.
  • Member states must appoint national coordinators to devise and implement coherent strategies to address antisemitism, and special envoys to promote international collaboration to address antisemitism as a threat to the freedom of religion or belief.
  • Member states must, without qualification, adopt the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Canada should declare its plan to publish specific steps to implement the IHRA definition.
  • Hate-crime legislation should recognize antisemitism as a clear and distinct classification that each member state’s citizens must understand.
  • Law enforcement agencies must be appropriately equipped and trained to recognize and combat antisemitism. Police forces in major cities must have dedicated units to investigate hate crimes with properly trained personnel.
  • Online hate, including antisemitism, must be rapidly confronted. It is an essential element of the contemporary challenge, as B’nai Brith has testified in Parliament.

The threat of antisemitism is global, as Dr. Shaheed notes in his report. Canada is not immune, as illustrated in B’nai Brith’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. Canada is in a unique position to speak out in support of Dr. Shaheed’s conclusions and lead a process of dialogue and follow-up action to ensure this significant UN report forms a foundation for action in the future.

The full text of B’nai Brith’s letter to Canada’s UN Ambassador can be found here.

The full text of B’nai Brith’s June 2019 submission to the UN Special Rapporteur, with recommendations to combat antisemitism, can be found here.