P.O. Box #77510
Sheppard Plaza Post Office
September 4, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister,
B’nai Brith Canada wrote you November 20, 2019, to assure your government of our firm support in continuing efforts by the Government to combat antisemitism, hate crimes and hate speech, and further address the challenges facing Canada’s Jewish community.
At that time, we offered several key recommendations on how your government could carry forward efforts to deal with threats to Canadian Jews and to help confront global antisemitism, building on the commitments you emphasized in your November 7, 2018, apology over the tragic events surrounding the MS St. Louis.
In your forthcoming Speech from the Throne, you will have additional opportunities to safeguard and strengthen the interests of Jewish Canadians by adopting some of our key recommendations and carrying them forward.
The world has changed considerably in the past ten months, altering the frame of reference with which we all address antisemitism. One issue is clear – the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the bitterness of attacks faced by the Jewish community, including antisemitic conspiracy theories and disinformation targeting both Jews and Jewish attachment to Israel.
As a national organization combatting hate since 1875, B’nai Brith knows we must confront the stigmatization of the Black and Indigenous communities, Asian-Canadians, and other distinctive communities, with more than words or expressions of support. We must lead in systematic reforms which seek to end racism and bias at the ‘root and branch’ level of our systems of governance, law enforcement and society generally, wherever they exist.
Racism and antisemitism are two sides of the same coin. We have echoed the call for greater fairness and opportunities for our Black, Indigenous and people of colour together with a national commitment to the eradication of systemic racism and antisemitism in Canada.
Within the framework of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy put in place during the last Parliament – one that we hope will effectively address the concerns of and threats to religious minorities – the Government should develop and implement a national action plan to combat antisemitism, under federal leadership, with a commitment to pursue standardized and mandatory education curricula on antisemitism and the Holocaust in the provinces and territories.
As a key part of a national action plan, the Government should create a federal position to coordinate action on antisemitism, domestically and internationally. This position should report direct to you and should be able to call on all programmes and activities of the Government in a holistic manner.
As part of the Anti-Racism Strategy, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism announced in June, 2019, that Canada would adopt the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The Government should now take practical steps to implement in full the IHRA definition of antisemitism, working in full consultation with representative Jewish community organizations such as B’nai Brith.
We believe the Government should emphasize that addressing racism, antisemitism, hate speech and hate crimes is a public safety issue, not just a multicultural issue and that combatting these is one end of the spectrum of countering radicalization to violence.
In November, 2019, the United Nations addressed a landmark report on antisemitism prepared by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The Government must pursue the recommendations in that report. It is instructive that the United Nations Secretary General has recently appointed a high-level focal point to monitor and combat antisemitism; Canada must now follow suit.
The Government should commit to provide resources from government programmes focused on strengthening digital literacy to deal with online hate and, specifically, online hate of an antisemitic nature. This would be in line with Canada’s signature of the ‘Christchurch Call to Action’ and the announcement of a new ‘Digital Charter’. Canada’s new Digital Charter includes a welcome Principle #9 that says our networks should be free from hate and violent extremism.
As you consider these proposals, Prime Minister, there are other signals which the Government can send, and actions that it can take, of a more immediate nature. We reiterate our calls from last November. By acting forthrightly, the Government can send important signals to the Jewish community in Canada and globally. These would include:
- A commitment to not re-engage Iran diplomatically unless it commits to fully recognizing Israel’s right to exist, to refrain from supporting destabilizing groups such as Hezbollah, and to not use its diplomatic presence in Canada to frustrate the interests of the Iranian-Canadian community and Canada’s Jewish community.
- Designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in its entirety as a terrorist entity.
- Committing that there will be no future funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) absent fundamental reforms to the mandate and oversight of that agency and concrete measures to address both mismanagement and removal of education materials inciting hate and violence towards Israel and the Jewish people.
- A commitment to proceed immediately with the deportation of former Nazis or Nazi war criminals, particularly Helmut Oberlander, and to complete transparency in releasing historical records related to the presence of such individuals in Canada.
5. Action to ratify and implement the 2002 Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems), to which Canada has been a signatory for many years.
Prime Minister, the forthcoming Speech from the Throne will provide an opportunity for you to acknowledge antisemitism as a form of racism. To tackle antisemitism in an anti-racist framework we must first acknowledge it as a form of racism. Often, anti-Jewish hatred is excluded from anti-racist narratives, this exclusion in its most extreme forms taking the shape of discourse about “Jewish privilege.”
Your Government can reiterate the naming of antisemitism as one of the forms of racism it aims to tackle. To define what antisemitism is, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism – which Canada has formally accepted -- must be further mainstreamed. A national strategy is essential to combatting antisemitism and, importantly, to confronting -- through education and other means -- Holocaust denial and distortion.
Your Government can emphasize its goal of mainstreaming antisemitism awareness across policy areas. Greater awareness about Jewish life, tradition and history as well as a deeper understanding of what constitutes antisemitism is needed for policy-makers, as much as it is for Canadian citizens. Increased training for civil servants, and education programmes that are both standardized and mandatory across the country should place antisemitism in the broader framework of anti-bias training.
B’nai Brith Canada will continue to work with you and your Ministers in ensuring these issues are forthrightly addressed. The Speech from the Throne would be a suitable occasion for reiteration of the Government’s goal to address antisemitism.
Chief Executive Officer