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Government of Canada Adopts Definition of Antisemitism that includes Anti-Zionism

by Rhonda Spivak, June 26, 2019


On June 25, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, Pablo Rodríguez, announced that the Government of Canada will be adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as part of its anti-racism strategy.

"The IHRA definition...explicitly recognizes that anti-Zionism – that is the delegitimization and demonization of the Jewish state – is a clear and unequivocal expression of antisemitism. The definition states clearly that Jew hatred includes applying antisemitic 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 antisemitic. But calling into question the right of the Jewish people to self-determination is,”  said Jeffrey Rosenthal, Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of CIJA (The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs), in a statement.

As Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt have written  in the Canadian Jewish News, the IHRA definition  includes "instances where anti-Semitism is masked as criticism of Israel or Zionism." As they have written "Too often, anti-Israel rhetoric, like that employed by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, is marked by delegitimization, demonization and double standards – aspects of discourse that clearly cross the line into anti-Semitism." 

The IHRA definition now constitutes the world's most widely accepted definition of antisemitism, having been endorsed or adopted by dozens of countries and bodies - including the UK, US, EU, France, Germany, and Greece.

As Joel Reitman, Co-Chair of the CIJA Board of Directors said in a statement that  CIJA has been calling on all three levels of government to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. He added that  the adoption of the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism " is a major milestone in the struggle against antisemitism. 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 antisemitism on the ground across Canada."


In  a statement, B'nai Brith Canada indicated that "This adoption of the IHRA working definition is a step in the right direction and something that has long been advocated by B'nai Brith as necessary in identifying and, ultimately, combating antisemitism.


 B'nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said in a statement that " B’nai Brith has long advocated that it is essential for our federal government to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. We can't effectively combat antisemitism if we don't have a proper definition that explains it in all of its myriad forms."


B’nai Brith Canada has also reiterated its long-held position for the  the governments of Canada’s provinces, territories and municipalities, to adopt IHRA definition of antisemitism. 

B'nai Brith Canada also stated that "As an illustration of B’nai Brith’s commitment to IHRA and its work, it supports a member of Canada’s delegation to IHRA plenary meetings. B’nai Brith’s current representative on Canada’s delegation is renowned lawyer and Order of Canada recipient

David Matas."


Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) also commended the Canadian government for its adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
"As antisemitism rises in this country, universities, provincial governments, unions, church groups, the media and others will have this important tool as a reference point when determining what is and isn't antisemitic," said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo in a statement.



Statistics Canada data consistently confirms that the Jewish community is the most frequently targeted minority when it comes to hate crime. In 2017, Statistics Canada reported 360 hate crimes targeting the Jewish community – an average of once every 24 hours."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.