September 7 2022
Mr. Alan Tam
Chair, York Region District School Board
The Education Centre - Aurora
60 Wellington Street West
Dear Chair Tam and Members of the Board of Trustees:
I have heard that the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) is planning to vote on a motion to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism (WD) at its meeting on September 13, 2022. I fully support this plan and urge you to adopt this resolution.
In order to fight antisemitism, whether in Canada or anywhere else, it is essential to define what it is. The IHRA is an international organization whose 35 members are national governments. Canada is a member, along with the US, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Australia. There are 10 additional observer members, including New Zealand, Brazil, El Salvador, and Turkey. On June 25, 2019, the Government of Canada formally adopted the IHRA working definition and it is to be guided by it in all actions.
The Government of Ontario also adopted IHRA by Order in Council on October 26, 2020 as has the Government of British Columbia. See below.
The Government of British Columbia, under NDP Premier John Horgan, also “fully supports” the Federal Government’s adoption of the working definition as shown below.
The IHRA working definition is also adopted by the Government of Quebec.
The IHRA definition is also supported by many US states, including New York State, under Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul.
It’s therefore clear that the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is the recognized definition of antisemitism both internationally, and by governments in Canada. Refusing to adopt this definition, because some noisy and marginal fringe groups object and mis-portray the definition as infringing on the rights of another group or of silencing criticism of Israel, would make the YRDSB an outlier and align the Board with those fringe groups. The IHRA organization makes it very clear that the working definition DOES NOT impinge on freedom of speech, nor deny people the right to criticize Israeli policies but it does state that denying Israel’s right to exist, demonizing Israel and comparing it to Nazism or promoting lies that breed Jew hatred, are all acts of antisemitism. The Jewish community remains the number one target of hate crimes in Canada, fighting it requires identifying it and stopping it, and the IHRA provides to tool to do that.
I urge the Board to do the right thing and adopt this motion, and then educate staff and students about implement plans to End Jew Hatred.
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation