Much has been made of the challenges facing Canadians as the country engages in its 44th federal general election while still in the grips of a pandemic. For Jewish voters, the succession of holidays in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 20 election makes scheduling events like community forums with candidates extra confounding.
Nevertheless, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), along with partner agencies, will present a number of events across the country. Here in Metro Vancouver, there will be a virtual town hall on Sept. 14, 4 p.m., co-presented, as is tradition, with SUCCESS, the United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society. Topics addressed will include racism and hate crimes; seniors’ care; post-pandemic economic recovery; immigrants and refugees; safe and healthy communities; and the sustainability of charitable and nonprofit organizations.
Two days earlier, on Sept. 12, a Richmond-focused virtual town hall will take place at 5 p.m., co-presented by CIJA and the Kehila Society of Richmond.
Tucked in between, on Sept. 13, is a national town hall, presented virtually from Toronto, again hosted by CIJA, this time in partnership with The CJN. All events are accessible from the website cija.ca/election.
Locally on Sept. 13, there is an all-candidates meeting on seniors issues for the ridings of Vancouver Granville and Vancouver South, co-hosted by Jewish Seniors Alliance. To register for it, visit jsalliance.org.
CIJA also has released a federal issues guide, outlining what it considers to be priorities on matters of domestic and foreign policy.
Among the recommendations is a request to supplement the Security Infrastructure Program, which provides funds to enhance security at institutions such as synagogues and community centres, with a program modeled after the Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom, which trains volunteers to provide patrols, situational awareness and threat prevention.
The guide urges amending the criminal code to make Holocaust denial an indictable offence and developing a standardized national social studies curriculum on antisemitism and the Holocaust.
The document, which is downloadable from the CIJA website, calls on the next government to address online hate through education and enforcement, including a social literacy campaign to “sensitize Canadians to the potent role social media plays in bullying, harassment, intimidation, dissemination of hate, and threats.” It calls for reestablishing provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act to combat hate speech and strengthening Canadian tax laws to prohibit charities from promoting or inciting antisemitism or violent extremism.
The foreign affairs section calls on the government to ensure that Canadian humanitarian aid to Palestinians “goes where it is intended” and to oppose one-sided United Nations resolutions singling out Israel. It also calls on the government to demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the “paid to slay” program that rewards terrorism. It also calls for putting pressure on Iran until it “demonstrates meaningful improvements in comes into full compliance with its international obligations.”
Other CIJA recommendations include:
- Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “as an important step toward truth and reconciliation.”
- Putting pressure on Eastern European countries “that have evaded their responsibility to pass meaningful restitution laws” for Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
- Strengthening immigration and refugee policies particularly to support those targeted for their identity, such as Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, LGBTQ2+ people in Chechnya and Iran, and Rohingyas in Myanmar.
- Reintroducing the question about religion in the census “to prevent continued underreporting of Jewish Canadians.”
- Ending the three-month celibacy requirement for LGBTQ2+ blood donors.
The full document is downloadable at cija.ca/election.
The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) is also busy during the campaign.
CJPAC engages “Jewish and pro-Israel Canadians in the democratic process” and helps community members build relationships within the Canadian political arena. Their website, cjpac.ca, has links to all major political parties, as well as links to volunteering and getting involved in campaigns. There is a final volunteer training webinar available at noon Pacific time on Sept. 13.
For information on your riding, where to vote and a list of candidates, go to the Elections Canada website at elections.ca.