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City council officially adopts antisemitism definition

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 1:02 PST, Fri February 17, 2023

Last Updated: 1:36 PST, Fri February 17, 2023

Earlier this week, as part of its commitment to create a more diverse and inclusive city, Richmond city council adopted the terminology and definitions in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022, including Discrimination, Anti-Asian Racism, Anti-Black Racism, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism. 

This motion made Richmond the latest Canadian jurisdiction to adopt or commit to using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The decision received resounding support from leaders of Richmond’s Jewish community, who, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), advocated for the definition to be adopted by the government as they looked to develop tools to tackle racism and hate.

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism is the consensus definition that best reflects lived experiences of Jews today. Developed by IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, the definition is grounded in the research of the world’s foremost experts on antisemitism and the Holocaust. It is supported by the United Nations, the European Union, and thirty countries including Canada and the United States.

“The City of Richmond’s commitment and leadership in combating hate and discrimination is an example to follow,” said Nico Slobinsky, Pacific region senior director, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “To combat hate effectively, we must be able to define it. By adopting the definitions of prejudice set out in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, which includes IHRA, Richmond city council demonstrates the importance it places in understanding how communities experience hate.”

The motion is timely, because in 2021 Canada saw a 27 per cent surge in police-reported hate crimes. Antisemitic incidents targeting the Jewish community accounted for a significant portion: 55 per cent of all religiously motivated incidents, and 14 per cent of overall reported hate crimes. And yet, in Canada, Jews comprise less than one per cent of the population.

Richmond’s adoption of these definitions of racism will work to develop a framework to identify, understand, and combat the hate and oppression experienced by minorities. According to the motion, the adopted definitions of hate, including IHRA, “will inform the City of Richmond on setting policies and standards of behaviours that we can expect our council, staff, contractors, suppliers, and stakeholders to meet.”

“Today, Mayor (Malcolm) Brodie and Richmond city council sent a strong message that antisemitism or hate in any form have no place in society,” said Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. “The rise of antisemitic hate crimes across the country has made the need to counter them urgent. No one should live in fear because of who they are. The IHRA definition will help the people of Richmond identify antisemitism in all its manifestations so that they can help put a stop to it and protect the values of diversity, equality, and community that we cherish.”

Coun. Alexa Loo introduced the motion to adopt the terminology and definitions of hate established on pages 21 to 24 of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, in their entirety, on Feb. 6. 

“Every community should be empowered to define the hate and oppression they face. It is important that Jewish lived experience—that of our community in Canada and around the world—is reflected in the understanding of antisemitism. That is why the adoption of IHRA is so meaningful to the Jewish community. (This) motion is a victory for all who stand against hate—no matter which group is the immediate target,” said Slobinsky.

The IHRA non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism: 

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” 

Full details and contemporary examples of antisemitism can be found here.

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