Jewish groups ‘disappointed’ with Montreal rejection of IHRA

The Montreal municipal council was expected to vote on a motion calling on the city to adopt IHRA on Monday.

Montreal City Hall (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Montreal City Hall
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Federation CJA and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Québec (CIJA) have expressed concern over the decision of Montreal’s mayor not to support the adoption of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
According to the organizations, the Montreal City Council was expected to vote on a motion calling on the city to adopt IHRA on Monday, but the vote and debate, introduced by Lionel Perez, was postponed to Tuesday morning because it coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“During the [Tuesday] debate, Mayor Valérie Plante proposed to refer the motion to the Commission de la présidence du conseil, suggesting that the city of Montreal should develop its own definition of antisemitism,” the statement said. “Perez rejected the proposal and withdrew the motion.”
Reacting to the situation, Federation CJA president Gail Adelson-Marcovitz and CIJA cochairman Reuben Poupko said they were deeply disappointed in Plante’s decision.
“[The mayor] did not support the adoption of the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism, a tool endorsed by reputable international bodies and adopted by dozens of democratic countries, including Canada, to enhance the fight against resurgent antisemitism,” the two said in a statement. “Indeed, Canada and many other countries recently chose to restate their commitment to IHRA and its definition of antisemitism.”
The Jewish leaders stressed that the mayor had failed “to seize the opportunity and show leadership on International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” to demonstrate that Montreal “is committed” to combating the fast-growing antisemitism gripping the world.
“In order to effectively combat resurgent Jew hatred, public authorities need a working definition that clearly identifies antisemitic incidents in their respective jurisdictions,” they said. “We will continue to work with the municipal council and the city of Montreal to raise awareness about antisemitism in all its contemporary forms and the necessity to use the IHRA definition as a reference and educational tool.”
Adelson-Marcovitz and Poupko praised Perez for standing his ground and refusing to give in to the option of having the IHRA definition revised and reworded “by a municipal commission lacking expertise on the matter.
“The IHRA definition is the most widely accepted definition of contemporary antisemitism, carefully developed over two decades by experts on antisemitism in cooperation with dozens of liberal democracies,” the leaders added.
Canadian government-run agency Statistics Canada has consistently found that the Jewish community is the most frequently targeted minority when it comes to hate crimes.
In 2017, Statistics Canada reported 360 hate crimes targeting the Jewish community – an average of once every 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Vaughan City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday proclaiming that January 27 is Holocaust Remembrance Day in the city of Vaughan, and also adopted the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
The city, located in Ontario, is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in Canada.
In a statement, the city’s mayor, Maurizio Bevilacqua, stressed that “Holocaust denial and other forms of antisemitic demonstrations continue to threaten communities and undermine democracy.”
“We have a shared responsibility to stop antisemitism in all its forms and manifestations through education and public consciousness,” he said. “By means of this proclamation, each year the city of Vaughan will reflect on this horrific genocide and honor the victims and their families.”
For Noah Shack, a vice president of CIJA, this move is an important step in the fight against antisemitism. Shack said that the organization applauded Bevilacqua and all city councilors “for their leadership in setting a strong example for other municipalities.”
He added that while Canada remains one of the best places to live as a minority, “Jewish Canadians are the most frequently targeted group for hate-motivated crimes.
“For Canadian authorities to properly combat antisemitism, they must be properly equipped to identify anti-Jewish hatred in its most contemporary forms,” Shack pointed out.