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Request to implement full IHRA definition of antisemitism to combat Jew hatred

July 5, 2022

Hon. Michael Ford

Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism

14th Floor, 56 Wellesley St W

Toronto, ON M7A 2E7

Delivered by Email:

Dear Minister Ford,

We are writing to you in your capacity as the new Minister responsible for the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 (“ARA”).

The Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism, established under Section 6 of the ARA, contain the following definition of Antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is latent or overt hostility, or hatred directed towards, or discrimination against, individual Jewish people or the Jewish people for reasons connected to their religion, ethnicity, and their cultural, historical, intellectual, and religious heritage.”

This definition is based on Order-in-Council ("OIC") 897-2018. Nevertheless, the Ontario government subsequently promulgated OIC 1450/2020. OIC 1450-2020 states that the “Government of Ontario adopts and recognizes the Working Definition of Antisemitism, as adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Plenary on May 26, 2016.”

The definition of antisemitism in OIC 897/2018 is entirely too narrow, in that it does not capture aspects of antisemitism covered by the IHRA definition, such as:

(a) accusations of dual or diluted loyalty to Canada on the part of Jewish Canadians who voice support for the State of Israel or Israeli institutions,

(b) holding Jewish Canadians or Jewish Canadian institutions, individually or collectively, responsible for the acts of the State of Israel,

(c) drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of National Socialist Germany.

The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism of 26 May 2016 was adopted by the Government of Canada on 27 June 2019. This definition has also been adopted by 34 other member governments of the IHRA, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and nations as diverse as Argentina, Colombia, Cyprus, and the Philippines.

It is essential that the Government of Ontario apply OIC 1450/2020 consistently across the Ontario Government, including the Anti-Racism Directorate, for which you are the responsible minister. It must not continue to permit the Anti-Racism Directorate to apply an obsolete, narrow and flawed definition of antisemitism that predated Canada's adoption of the IHRA Working Definition, and in disregard of OIC 1450/2020. The continued use of this obsolete and inappropriate definition by the Anti-Racism Directorate skews to under-report incidents of antisemitism. In addition, other institutions in Ontario’s public sector, such as municipal governments and district school boards (e.g, City of Ottawa, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board), continue to replicate the obsolete OIC 897/2018 definition and thereby fail to recognize the full spectrum of antisemitic incidents taking place in Ontario.

For example, on 1 July 2022, a so-called “pro-Palestinian” demonstration took place at a shopping plaza in Vaughan ON, at the corner of Bathurst St. and Chabad Gate. This shopping plaza is in one of the neighbourhoods in Toronto that has the highest concentration of Jews in all of Canada. No Israeli government institutions are located at the plaza. The plaza contains several kosher restaurants and grocery stores, one of which operates under the name “Taste of Israel”. The store includes some Israeli products in its inventory of merchandise. That reason was sufficient to make the store a target of this demonstration. While this demonstration would clearly be deemed to be antisemitic incident under the IHRA definition (OIC 1450/2020), it would escape documentation as such under the ARD’s obsolete data standards (OIC 897/2018).

This is unacceptable.

We therefore respectfully urge you to exercise your power under Section 6(3) of the ARA to amend the data standards without delay, to bring them into alignment with Order-in-Council 1450/2020.


Andria Spindel

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