15 Hove Street
November 20, 2019
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of B’nai Brith Canada, I congratulate you on your recent election victory and your returning to office as Prime Minister. Please be assured of B’nai Brith’s 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.
We believe the Government must continue its efforts to deal with threats to Canadian Jews and to help confront global antisemitism. There are several issues we wish to raise as priorities, carrying forward from views we have voiced over many months and the commitments you emphasized in your November 7, 2018, apology over the tragic events surrounding the MS St. Louis.
Some issues we intend to address with specific Ministers; others must be embraced as part of a strategic approach and should be the basis of early action under your leadership. Our recommendations are not exhaustive, but illustrative. They represent a consistency of approach on our part over a lengthy period.
Within the framework of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy put in place during the last Parliament – one that must 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.
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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, working in full consultation with representative Jewish community organizations such as B’nai Brith.
We have often been told that the interests of the Jewish community are an aspect of multiculturalism or tolerance and diversity within Canada. That is only part of the problem. The Government should accept that addressing 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. The Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness must be an essential interlocutor in this process.
The United Nations has just discussed a landmark report on antisemitism prepared by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The Government should pursue the recommendations in that report. Using the human rights-based approach, this should mean that Canadian development assistance resources and Government assessments of a country’s human rights record, will include a component related to antisemitism and that Canada’s diplomatic resources will have a role to play.
The Minister of Democratic Institutions recently consulted us on addressing online antisemitism. The Government should commit to providing resources from government programmes focused 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.
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As you consider these proposals, Prime Minister, there are signals which the Government can send, and actions that can be taken, of a more immediate nature. By acting forthrightly, the government can send important signals to the Jewish community in Canada and globally. These would include:
- 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 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.
- A commitment to proceeding 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.
- 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 priorities and needs of the Jewish community transcend political party boundaries. Action by the Government will inevitably be supported by other major political parties. B’nai Brith Canada looks forward to working closely with the new Government in implementing a strategic approach along these lines. A national strategy is essential to combatting antisemitism and, importantly, to confronting -- through education and other means -- Holocaust denial and distortion.
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The growth in antisemitism in Canada is worrying. Our latest annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents is clear on how Jews remain the most targeted community for hate. As an organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism, hate crimes and hate speech, our major focus will be to work with you and your Ministers in ensuring these issues are forthrightly addressed.
Chief Executive Officer