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B’nai Brith Audit Could Serve As Model for Other Minority Groups

Willem Hart

Sociology demands data. It demands that there be a process of data collection, standards and a strict process that must be upheld before coming to a conclusion.

For one day of the year, the problem of prejudice against the Jewish community was the focus of the national dialogue in Canada. B’nai Brith spoke, and the public listened, because what we had to say in the 2016 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents was backed up by research, facts and strong qualitative analysis. Stories were printed in 300 papers across Canada, and “B’nai Brith” trended on Facebook.

In my opinion the Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents is a key component in fighting against antisemitism in Canada, but could also serve as a model for other minority groups. While by any measure the Jewish community is indeed the greatest target of hate in this country – for over ten years in a row, no less – other forms of prejudice and group-hatred must be combated as well.

Issues surrounding anti-Black racism has commanded particular media attention in the past few years, which is undoubtedly a reliable indicator that the issue is receiving the attention it deserves

I am reminded of an Annual General Meeting of my old student union, the York Federation of Students, where the issue of anti-black racism dominated the discussion. The Vice President of Campaigns and Advocacy was making the case for a donation from the student union to Black Lives Matter Toronto, on which she was also an executive, to the tune of ten thousand dollars.

The blatant conflict of interest aside, this individual’s initiative was backed up with claims of racism permeating society, and, more egregiously, that someone calls her a racist slur every day she’s on campus.

I certainly do not doubt that anti-black racism is indeed a pertinent issue facing Canadian society, and demands the same attention and legitimacy as any other form of group hatred. But for the general public to sympathize with a claim of its universality if it isn’t backed up by data. This is especially true being that the onus of proof rests with those staking this claim.

Similarly, in the aftermath of the Audit release and the stories appearing on Twitter, I saw some tweets comparing the Audit report and M-103, the high-profile “Islamophobia Motion” put forward by Mississauga-Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid. Critics of the motion argue that the vagueness of the language opens up a criminalization on criticism of Islam, while its proponents argue that the rise in violence and general antipathy against Muslim Canadians warrants this motion to study “Islamophobia”.

Others even go so far as to argue that the vagueness and the potential for stifling of intellectual inquiry, generated more backlash and inspired even more antipathy to Muslim Canadians.

Some comments on Twitter alluded to the fact that antisemitism in Canada was documented, but data about violence, harassment and vandalism against the Muslim community was so sparse.

I think this serves as an example of what I’m trying to say here. Other groups would do well to collect data, formulate reports and give government and law enforcement a stronger case for involvement in their particular group discrimination in Canada.

I know my department would welcome that conversation.

Willem Hart is a Human Rights Researcher with B’nai Brith Canada