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Canada Accepts Anti-Semitism Standard

Catherine Goodwin
The Leo Baeck School in Toronto was vandalized with graffiti in October 2018. (Photo: B'Nai Brith Canada)

Canada announced that it would officially recognize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as part of its new anti-racism programming on June 25. Canada, one of the 32 member countries of the IHRA since 2009, had not previously adopted the 2016 definition, which reads as follows: “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.” 

The IHRA text includes eleven examples that “may serve as illustrations,” including anti-Zionism. “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” and “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” Thus, while criticizing specific policies of a democratic state is not inherently hateful, the IHRA concluded that questioning the right of Jewish people to self-determination is an expression of anti-Semitism. 

The Ministry of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism devised the anti-racism strategy, entitled the plan Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022, at a critical time, as many countries in the West have become increasingly anti-Semitic and increasingly anti-Israel. Canada’s highest proportion of hate crimes are anti-Semitic, and Statistics Canada reported 360 of those anti-Semitic hate crimes in the year 2017 alone. Joel Reitman, co-chair of CIJA’s board of directors, praised the decision by Canadian lawmakers. “Peddlers of anti-Semitism must be held accountable, but this can only happen if authorities can clearly and consistently identify acts of Jew hatred… The IHRA definition – which has been adopted by dozens of democratic countries – is a vital tool in countering the global rise in anti-Semitism.”

Canada joins dozens of countries and organizations, including the U.S., U.K., and EU, in adopting the IHRA definition.