On Nov. 16, Vancouver city council became the latest Canadian jurisdiction to adopt or commit to using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.
The 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).
“Defining antisemitism is an essential step towards recognizing its manifestations and being able to counteract it,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and chief executive officer, 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.”
Developed by IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, the IHRA working definition of antisemitism is grounded in the research of the international experts on antisemitism and the Holocaust. It is supported by the United Nations, the European Union and 30 countries, including the United States and Canada.
“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,” said 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, chief executive officer, 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.”
Councilor 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,” she said. “Education is more powerful than any punitive actions could ever be.”
“We are proud to stand with the Jewish community both in Vancouver and around the world,” said Sim. “Antisemitism has no place in our city, and today we take an important step towards building a more inclusive and safe society for all.”
In his weekly email message Nov. 18, Shanken wrote, “In 2019, when the IHRA working definition of antisemitism was first brought before council [by Kirby-Yung], thousands of you wrote letters and signed up to speak in favour of the motion. From community members and leaders to elected officials, clergy, partners agencies, and more, your words were powerful and you were heard by this council – even if your letter was from 2019.”
Shanken highlighted the work of several community leaders: Nico Slobinsky, senior director of CIJA-Pacific Region; Geoffrey Druker, chair of CIJA’s local partnership council; Candace Kwinter, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver; Lana Marks Pulver, chair of the Federation annual campaign; Nina Krieger, executive director of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (who has been a member of the Canadian delegation to the IHRA since 2012); and Corrine Zimmerman, president of VHEC.
Learn more about the IHRA definition at holocaustremembrance.com.
– Courtesy CIJA and Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver