The city council of the Canadian city of Vancouver on Wednesday became the latest Canadian jurisdiction to adopt or commit to using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.
The IHRA working definition offers a comprehensive description of antisemitism in its various forms, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial and, sometimes controversially, the way antisemitism relates to the ways criticism of Israel is expressed.
Vancouver’s decision received support from organized Jewish community representatives, including both the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung introduced the motion to adopt the IHRA definition.
“Nobody should have to live in fear because of who they are. It was an honour to bring this motion forward to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism,” she said. “We stand united with Vancouver’s Jewish community in the ongoing fight against antisemitism and the troubling rise of hate incidents in our city.”
“The best means to combat hate is through education, and the IHRA definition can help foster a deeper level of understanding,” continued Kirby-Yung. “Education is more powerful than any punitive actions could ever be.”
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, “We are proud to stand with the Jewish community both in Vancouver and around the world. Antisemitism has no place in our city, and today we take an important step towards building a more inclusive and safe society for all.”
Jewish groups in Canada welcomed Vancouver’s move.
“Defining antisemitism is an essential step towards recognizing its manifestations and being able to counteract it,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, President and CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “Today’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism by Mayor Ken Sim and Vancouver City Council is a clear stand against the rise in acts of hatred against members of the Jewish community.”
“History has repeatedly shown, what begins as hatred of Jews never ends as hatred of Jews. Canadians must stand united with the Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism,” continued Fogel. “The decision made by Vancouver City Council today is a victory for all who stand against hate – no matter which group is the immediate target.”
“Today, Mayor Sim and the vast majority of Vancouver City Council sent a strong message that antisemitism has no place in society,” said Ezra Shanken, CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. “To combat antisemitism effectively, it must first be defined. The IHRA definition will help the people of Vancouver identify and combat antisemitism in all its forms. The rise of antisemitic hate crimes across the country has meant that fighting antisemitism must be a priority for all Vancouverites and Canadians, not just members of the Jewish community.”
B’nai Brith Canada, which assisted in the preparation of the motion in Vancouver, also welcomed its approval.
“Mayor Sim is sending a very positive message to the Jewish community that the municipality takes antisemitism seriously,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our organization offers our support and resources to aid the municipality. We look forward to Mayor Sim and his team building on this first step and moving towards entrenchment of the IHRA definition.”
More than half the states in the US have adopted or endorsed the IHRA definition, plus the District of Columbia, either as legislation or as an educational standard.