Standing up against antisemitism

Recent data released by Statistics Canada reported that there has been a 42 per cent increase in hate crimes and just as alarming is the added statistic that there has been a 71 per cent increase in religiously motivated hate crimes targeting the Jewish community. Continuing international events clearly demonstrate the timeliness of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) report, which will be released Thursday, July 7, 2011.

The CPCCA launched a nationwide inquiry into antisemitism and as chair of the Inquiry Panel, I was honoured to join with my colleagues Scott Reid, chair of the Steering Committee and our parliamentary colleagues in undertaking this important work. Written and oral testimony has been reviewed and compiled into a report outlining the state of antisemitism in Canada. Our work on this inquiry has taken more than two years to complete.

This inquiry has been an important initiative of Canadian lawmakers from all political parties who worked together to define, examine, cast light upon and finally dispel this persistent form of discrimination. During the course of the last two years the committee heard from a wide range of groups and achieved a more comprehensive understanding of antisemitism in Canada and across the world.

Canada is witnessing an unprecedented increase in antisemitic incidents and hateful discourse. While the same tired and intolerable accusations and acts of vandalism continue to injure Canada’s Jewish community – including in recent times the appearance of swastikas on public and private properties throughout predominantly Jewish areas of Montreal – new fears have arisen for those who not only support the Jewish people, but the state of Israel as well.

On campuses in particular, Jewish students are being threatened and intimidated to the point that they fear expressing themselves publicly. This conduct and these statements are inconsistent with our Canadian values that promote the rights of all individuals to practice their religion, educate themselves and express themselves with security and freedom. Canada is founded on a set of shared values and antisemitism is an affront to all we stand for in this country. Indeed, it is from this kind of conduct that so many other forms of hatred find the oxygen from which they too can emerge.

The escalation of antisemitism, both at home and abroad, necessitates the need to act to confront and combat this oldest and most enduring of hatreds. There is a need to support and adopt the definition of antisemitism of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, now the European Fundamental Rights Agency. As well, Canada should establish national standards for police services across the country so that we have a common understanding of what constitutes an antisemitic crime and police agencies, human rights commissions, and not-for profit agencies, must work to coordinate and pool information about antisemitic incidents in Canada.

Finally, I congratulate and commend the government of Canada for its commitment to establish an Office for Religious Freedom and I encourage the government to move expeditiously in establishing this important platform for Canada’s voice to be heard even more loudly on fundamental human rights issues.

Any society that tolerates intolerable behaviour or discriminatory practices against any group is in fact tolerating unacceptable behaviour against the society as a whole. It is for this reason that all of us are called to act. All of us are summoned to bring our resolve, our talents and our commitment to combatting antisemitism. Not only because as a member of a civilized society it is our duty, but because, quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

MP Mario Silva is the chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) Inquiry Panel. The CPCCA report will be available online after its release at


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