OTTAWA — Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger says a national summit on antisemitism the federal government is hosting today will allow community members to speak directly with politicians in an environment that ensures their safety.
Chagger says in an interview the government will be listening and engaging with community members aiming to turn their ideas into actions to implement policies that reflect the diversity of Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, federal ministers, opposition critics, premiers and mayors will be participating in the summit along with Jewish community members from across the country.
Irwin Cotler, Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism, says he will be speaking about the rise of antisemitism not only in Canada, but also internationally, which he likens to almost an “explosion.”
He says Jews are being targeted and threatened in their neighbourhoods and their synagogues, memorials and institutions have also been attacked and vandalized.
B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights organization, says it recorded 2,610 antisemitic incidents last year, which was the fifth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada.
The organization says 44 per cent of violent antisemitic incidents in 2020 were COVID-19-related, with Jews being spat on and otherwise assaulted, driven in part by antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Cotler says he will be proposing a 10-point action plan to combat antisemitism in Canada during today’s summit.
“The summit is as timely as it is necessary, but it will only be effective if, in fact, we implement an action plan,” he says.
He says his proposed plan will call on the government to mandate and implement a comprehensive national action plan to combat antisemitism by enhancing security and protection for Jewish institutions including synagogues, schools, community centres and memorial sites. The plan would also provide more resources for Holocaust and antisemitism education, among other elements.
He says Canadian governments should learn from the best practices and the failures of European countries who have developed plans and proposals to combat antisemitic hate crimes.
The federal government will also hold a summit on Islamophobia this week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.