Vancouver city councilor to put forward motion to fight antisemitism

This comes just a month after Canada decided it was going to adopt the IHRA definition.

July 22, 2019 19:30
3 minute read.
Vancouver city councilor to put forward motion to fight antisemitism

Anti-racism protesters gather outside of city hall in Vancouver. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Vancouver city councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung is putting forward a motion on Tuesday for the Canadian city to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

This comes one month after Canada adopted the IHRA definition. On June 25, Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodríguez announced that this move would form part of its anti-racism strategy.

The IHRA definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In a move supporting Kirby-Yung, the Ottawa-based Jewish Federation of Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said that this motion “is especially crucial in light of a recent report by the Vancouver Police Department’s hate crimes unit, which revealed that Jewish residents are one the most targeted groups when it comes to hate crimes in the city.

“Alarmingly, hate crimes and hate incidents in Vancouver more than doubled between 2016 and 2018,” CIJA said in a statement.

Kirby Young’s motion also notes this, delving deeper into the matter.

“On June 12, 2019,” she writes “VPD [The Vancouver Police Department] hate crimes unit reported that members of the Jewish community are the most targeted group when it comes to hate crimes in the city, followed by Muslims, LGBTQ community members, and Asian and black communities.

“In the City of Vancouver, hate crimes and hate crime incidents increased from 61 in 2016 to 141 in 2018,” she explained. “In 2017, police-reported hate crimes targeting members of the Canadian Jewish community reached 360 and rose by 60% in a single year, according to Statistics Canada.

“An antisemitic hate crime takes place once every 24 hours in Canada,” she highlighted in the motion to the Vancouver city council.

“Therefore, be it resolved that the City of Vancouver adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism and list of illustrative examples, as adopted by the IHRA plenary on May 26, 2016, and the Government of Canada in June 2019,” she concluded, adding that the city council should direct staff to share this motion and the IHRA definition with the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver School Board for their review and consideration “as an additional practical tool... in identifying antisemitism.”

On Kirby-Yung’s motion, CIJA said that “antisemitism can only be overcome by education, increased awareness, strong political condemnation, and enforcement of relevant laws.

“All of this must be anchored in the IHRA definition as a clear means of identifying Jew hatred,” it added.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, which also threw its support behind Kirby-Yung, said on Friday that defining antisemitism is important because “in order to stop antisemitism, individuals, organizations, and governments need to be able to identify it clearly and consistently.

“That starts with defining it, and doing so in a way that provides robust examples that are easy to understand and follow,” its CEO Ezra S. Shanken wrote. “Adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is a tool city leaders need to keep our families, our friends, and our neighbors safe.”

However, there has been some backlash from groups following the campaign to have this motion recognized by the city.

A campaign to resist Kirby-Yung’s motion has also been started, called #NoIHRA, in which locals have been encouraged to write letters to the mayoral office and the City of Vancouver saying that “while fighting antisemitism is essential, the IHRA definition is the wrong approach,” adding that “asking the City of Vancouver to adopt a definition that would equate antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel.”

The pro-Palestinian group Independent Jewish Voices took to Twitter to comment on the matter, saying, “Vancouver: Antisemitism is real and dangerous. The IHRA is not the solution. We need a clear definition that does not repress speech around Israel/Palestine.”

Pro-Palestinian activist Rabbi David Mivasair called on Vancouver to “REJECT the biased, manipulative IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“It is used to suppress honest discussion of Israel’s brutal oppression of Palestinians, not to defend Jews against real threats. Don’t be duped by Israel’s agents in Canada,” he tweeted.

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