British Columbia
British Columbia iStock

B’nai Brith Canada called on British Columbia to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, given that anti-Jewish incidents are increasing at an alarming rate in the Canadian province.

The advocacy group noted that BC Premier John Horgan has voiced his support for the Canadian government’s adoption of IHRA, but the definition still has not been adopted in the province. Therefore, B’nai Brith urged that the province “take the logical step of formalizing its support for the definition.”

“We’ve reached out to British Columbia repeatedly,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “But neither the premier’s letter of June 14, which is public, nor the Anti-Racism Data Act law since June 2, indicates that IHRA is now the province’s policy. In fact, Jews aren’t even mentioned in the Act.”

Premier Horgan’s May 2 press release described the legislation as “a step to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination faced by Indigenous, Black and people of colour, the province is introducing the Anti-Racism Data Act.”

B’nai Brith explained that while it welcomes efforts to combat hate aimed at identifiable groups, the Jewish community had asked that BC follow Ontario’s lead and specifically adopt IHRA.

According to B’nai Brith, recent published messages inaccurately suggested BC had adopted the definition. But the premier only said he supported the federal government’s adoption of the definition, stating: “The Province of British Columbia fully supports the federal government’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and rejects all forms of discrimination as outlined in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy.”

“The Premier acknowledged that the IHRA definition is important to clarify what is and what is not antisemitism. Nowhere in his letter, however, does he commit to do more than collect data and then engage in dialogue with the Jewish community,” B’nai Brith pointed out.

“B’nai Brith met with Finance Minister Selina Robinson and MLA Rachina Singh, whose dossier includes systemic racism and combating hate aimed at minorities,” said Marvin Rotrand, National Director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “We have asked British Columbia to explicitly adopt IHRA in the province, given its effectiveness in combating antisemitism and the fact that 27 U.S. states have already done so.”

Antisemitism has been skyrocketing in the province, according to data compiled by B’nai Brith. Their 20201 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents found that incidents in BC “ballooned” from 194 in 2020 to 409 in 2021.

Jews comprise just 1.25 percent of Canada’s population but were the victims of 61 percent of police-reported hate crimes in 2021 targeting religious minorities, according to Statistics Canada.