Jew-Hatred Can’t Be Countered Without Action Plan, Declares Convener of Canada’s National Summit on Antisemitism
The Canadian government convened its first-ever national summit on antisemitism on Wednesday amid warnings from its keynote speaker that concrete action against Jew-hatred was necessary for the parley to have any value.
“It can’t just be a one-time discussion. It will have to be an action plan that is developed and implemented as a result of the discussion,” Irwin Cotler — a former federal justice minister who is now Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism — told broadcaster CBC. “The summit is as timely as it is necessary, but it will only be effective if, in fact, we implement an action plan.”
Cotler’s proposed plan calls on the Canadian government to mandate and implement a comprehensive national action plan to combat antisemitism by enhancing security and protection for Jewish institutions including synagogues, schools, community centers and memorial sites. The plan would also provide more resources for Holocaust and antisemitism education, among other elements. Cotler has also emphasized that Canada should learn from the best practices as well as the failures of European countries that have developed plans to combat antisemitic hate crimes.
The summit comes just weeks after Jews in Canada experienced a record number of antisemitic hate crimes in a single month.
B’nai Brith Canada reported at least 250 such incidents during May, a month that saw the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas terror group accompanied by a wave of antisemitism internationally.
Those 250 incidents — the highest ever reported in a single month by B’nai Brith since the group began collecting data in 1982 — included 154 incidents of harassment, 51 incidents of vandalism, and 61 incidents of violence.
Wednesday’s summit was not free of political controversy, after some opposition politicians protested late on Tuesday that they had not been invited to the event.
“The government is hosting a National Summit on antisemitism tomorrow. MPs, govt officials & Jewish civic leaders were all invited,” tweeted Annamie Paul, who became leader of the Canadian Green Party last October after defeating an anti-Zionist candidate. “I wasn’t. I am the only Jewish Leader of a federal party and a constant target of antisemitism. The government knows I should be there.”
Paul — who recently survived a leadership challenge over intra-party criticism for not going far enough to condemn Israel in addressing the Gaza conflict — confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that she had received an invitation to observe the summit, but stressed that she wanted to speak as a member of the Jewish community.
A similar complaint was voiced by the office of Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, the official opposition party in Canada.
In a statement, O’Toole’s office said he that he was not initially invited to the antisemitism summit — or to the similar summit being held on Thursday to combat Islamophobia — despite asking the government for an opportunity to speak.
“Mr. O’Toole received an invitation at 7:15 pm [on Tuesday] evening to watch the summit but despite repeated requests from stakeholders and our office, we are not part of the event,” said spokesperson Josie Sabatino.
Wednesday’s summit coincided with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s announcement that Canada will spend more than $6 million on 150 projects to support communities at risk of hate-motivated crime.