Canadian province of Ontario adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

The Canadian province of Ontario has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said Premier Doug Ford’s ministers “took swift and decisive action” on Monday to recognize the definition even before the passage of legislation currently before the house.

The move followed recent vandalism at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa.

“After a heinous act of antisemitism at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa … it is crucial that all governments be clear and united in fighting antisemitism and our adoption of the working definition has done just that,” Calandra said Tuesday, according to The Toronto Star.

“The government of Ontario is proud to adopt and recognize the working definition of antisemitism. We stand with Ontario’s Jewish community in defense of their rights and fundamental freedoms as we always have and always will,” he added.

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.

Ontario is the first province in Canada to use the working definition. The government of Canada formally adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism last year as part of its anti-racism strategy.

The City of Barrie, which is located 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Toronto, adopted the definition last month.

The York Regional Council, which represents several municipalities located north of Toronto, earlier this year also adopted the IHRA definition.

Ontario’s move was welcomed by Canadian Jewish groups.

Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said in a statement, “We applaud the government of Ontario for joining the dozens of other governments around the world in adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, a vital tool in the ongoing fight against hatred and discrimination targeting the Jewish community in Ontario.”

“Jews continue to be subjected to vile rhetoric and propaganda and still remain the minority group most targeted by hate crime, which is nothing less than an affront to our basic democratic values as Ontarians,” added Levitt.

Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada, said, "At a time of rising antisemitism in Ontario and around the world, the adoption of the IHRA Working Definition in its entirety is a major step forward. From high schools and university campuses to police hate-crime units, this announcement promises much-needed relief for Jews across the province. Ontario will now be equipped to identify and react to incidents of antisemitism in a clear and precise way, and be better positioned to prevent antisemitism and react to it whenever it rears its head anywhere in the province. We applaud the Ontario government for becoming the first province in Canada to adopt the IHRA definition."

Shimon Koffler Fogel, President and CEO, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said, "Today the Government of Ontario joins a growing number of jurisdictions, at all levels of government and around the world, in taking action against the growing threat posed to our society by antisemitism. antisemitism cannot be effectively addressed without being properly defined. The IHRA definition is the internationally accepted guideline for identifying anti-Jewish hate, having been adopted by dozens of countries and other institutions, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.”

“The IHRA definition provides a framework that can help guide Ontario government institutions interested in understanding contemporary forms of antisemitism, such as Holocaust denial," he added.

Photo: Legislative Assembly of Ontario, wikimedia