The government of Canada announced on June 25 that it will formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as part of its anti-racism strategy.
The announcement came from Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage and multiculturalism.
The ministry unveiled Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022, “which helps advance the government of Canada’s vision of fostering and promoting a more inclusive and equitable country for all Canadians,” a statement from Rodriguez’s office read.
A key component of the $45 million federal strategy will be the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which was accepted by the alliance in 2016. Canada joined the IHRA in 2009 and is now one of 32 member nations.
The non-legally binding definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the IHRA was:
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Guidelines attached to the definition include illustrations of anti-Semitism, including Holocaust denial, accusing Israel and Jews of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust, making “mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jews,” denying Jews their right to self-determination by claiming that Israel is a racist endeavor, along with other facets of anti-Jewish racism.
B’nai Brith Canada calls it “the most universally accepted and expertly driven definition of anti-Semitism available today”; one that “enjoys unprecedented consensus.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) noted that the IHRA definition now constitutes the world’s most widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism, having been endorsed or adopted by dozens of countries and bodies.
CIJA applauded Canada’s adoption of the definition.
“Peddlers of anti-Semitism must be held accountable, but this can only happen if authorities can clearly and consistently identify acts of Jew hatred,” said Joel Reitman, co-chair of CIJA’s board of directors.
“This is why CIJA has been calling on all three levels of government to use the (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. The IHRA definition – which has been adopted by dozens of democratic countries – is a vital tool in countering the global rise in anti-Semitism”
Jeffrey Rosenthal, co-chair of CIJA’s board of directors, added that, “This is a major milestone in the struggle against anti-Semitism. It sets a strong example and offers a practical tool for authorities – from police and prosecutors, to school principals and campus officials – as they work to tackle anti-Semitism on the ground across Canada.”
Rosenthal noted that the IHRA definition “also explicitly recognizes that anti-Zionism – the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state – is a clear and unequivocal expression of anti-Semitism. The definition states clearly that Jew-hatred includes applying anti-Semitic slurs to Israel, denying the Jewish people’s legitimate right to self-determination, accusing Israelis of blood libels and holding Israel to double standards. The IHRA definition also recognizes that, like any democracy, criticism of Israeli policy is not anti-Semitic. But calling into question the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is.”
In a statement the day before Ottawa’s announcement, B’nai Brith reiterated its long-held position that all three levels of governments in Canada should adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
The IHRA definition is applied in the annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents by B’nai Brith’s advocacy arm, the League for Human Rights.
B’nai Brith’s full proposal calls for the government “to lead by example by indicating it will apply the IHRA definition in key government activities such as the collection of statistical data and in application of its law-enforcement agencies,” the organization stated.