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Ran Ukashi

Ran Ukashi: We Fight Antisemitism With You, Not for You

by Ran Ukashi, Sept 20, 2018



It is a common question. We at B'nai Brith Canada are asked this almost daily:


How are you actually fighting antisemitism?  


Let’s start by pointing out that B’nai Brith Canada is renowned for its 24/7 Anti-Hate Hotline, its Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents and for standing up for this country's Jews to antisemitism whenever and wherever it emerges. Over the years, we have learned what works and what does not, what is worth fighting for and what is worth discarding. The ultimate lesson derived from more than 140 years on the scene is that, if we want to truly combat antisemitism, we have to demand consequences for antisemitism. 


Indeed, we regularly liaise with police services across the country, we advocate for victims of antisemitism who communicate their experiences through our hotline and believe that shining light on antisemitism is typically the best form of disinfectant. However, we continue to see that all too often hate crimes go unpunished, government and other public entities lack the ability or the will to tackle the issue and that a concerted plan of action is needed to ensure that the obstacles preventing substantive improvements in confronting antisemitism in Canada are dissolved once and for all. To this end, we propose a plan to tackle antisemitism that we hope others will help us carry forward in their own deliberations and outreach to elected officials at all levels of government.    


First, our experience tells us that we need dedicated hate-crime unites in every major Canadian city, with the proper training to do the job. Increasing police resources to deal with hate crimes would establish greater deterrence, and higher prosecution rates, if they are coupled with adequate personnel and specialized training, including enhanced language training outside of English and French. We have seen antisemitism emerging in various languages across Canada, including Arabic, and greater intelligence resources are needed to root out incitement to violence outside of Canada’s two official languages.


Second, there is a need to clarify what constitutes hate propaganda.  The Attorney General’s Guidelines remain opaque on this issue and therefore needs to be made transparent to help advocates and police officers to identify and arrest those who incite others to hatred, while simultaneously acting as a further deterrent to would-be criminals by clearly illustrating what constitutes an illegal act. 


Third, we need to adopt a National Action Plan for Antisemitism along the lines of what has been adopted in France and Norway, recognizing the unique nature and challenge of antisemitism in Canada. Coupled with this, although separate from it, is the need for an Action Plan to Counter Online Hate, as both our 2016 and 2017 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents have illustrated that hate speech targeting Jews and other groups have flourished online—a growing trend. 


Fourth, we call for a zero-tolerance approach to government funding of antisemitism. That is, no government funding, from any level of government, should be provided to entities, individuals, or programs that espouse antisemitism.We encourage the federal government to continue abiding by such policies to ensure that no publicly funded institutions negatively impact the social cohesion of this country.  


Fifth, and related to the point above, universities must be held accountable for antisemitism, insofar as they enjoy significant public funding and are ultimately answerable to their respective provincial ministers of advanced education. We have seen universities intervene in instances where student safety was at risk. For instance, the Government of Ontario has worked to address sexual violence on Ontario campuses in 2016. As such, provincial governments must do their part to combat all forms of violence and discrimination, on an ongoing basis, including antisemitism. 


Finally, we call for the adoption of legislation against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) in every province and territory in Canada. This legislation protects against strategic lawsuits used by individuals or groups to stifle critiques of issues that are in the public interest. For example, B’nai Brith Canada was recently successful in defeating a former Green Party Justice Critic and anti-Israel activist when the Ontario Superior Court dismissed his libel action under Ontario’s anti-SLAPP provision. Extending this Anti-SLAPP legislation across Canada would make it easier for human rights groups to publicly criticize bigots and extremists without fear of facing crippling strategic lawsuits designed to quell such discourse.  


These recommendations, if pursued and adopted, can provide significant progress in effectively combatting antisemitism and racial discrimination in Canada. Our 2017 Audit demonstrates that when antisemitism goes unchallenged, it transmogrifies into harassment, vandalism and ultimately violence. We see that when the phenomenon of antisemitism goes unacknowledged, it only continues to fester and grow until it can no longer be ignored without having incurred a serious cost upon the Jewish community and society as a whole.  


That is why we encourage all Canadians, from both the Jewish and non-Jewish community, to advocate for these recommendations with their elected officials, to bring these matters up in discussion with friends and family, and to change the conversation for the better towards combatting antisemitism outside of mere condemnation and outrage.  


Just as the community relies on us to battle the challenge of antisemitism, we rely on the community to support us in our work. Our fight is your fight. We are all from the same community, and the challenges we face affect one and all. Advocating for positive and meaningful change can make a world of difference in the fight against antisemitism. 


Speak up, and speak out for the community, and we will keep on doing the same—together.  


Ran Ukashi is the National Director for the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada. 

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