B’nai Brith Debate Highlights Rising Anti-Semitism and Conflicted Relationship with Israel - New Canadian Media
B'nai Brith Canada holds a series of federal election debates on Monday, in ridings of interest to Canada's Jewish community. (Screengrab of the virtual debate)

B’nai Brith Debate Highlights Rising Anti-Semitism and Conflicted Relationship with Israel

“Liberation for some is liberation for none.” NCM reporter Daniela Cohen recaps Monday’s B’nai Brith election debate in Winnipeg South Centre.

In the B’nai Brith Canada Election debate in the hotly-contested riding of Winnipeg South Centre, Liberal nominee Jim Carr said it was the responsibility of the Jewish community to welcome all experiencing persecution into Canada, such as the recently arrived refugees from Afghanistan. Carr shared the lasting impact of his own experiences of anti-Semitism in Canada but did not present a concrete plan to address anti-Semitism. 

There has been an 18.3 per cent rise in anti-Semitism in Canada in the past year, said debate moderator Howard Morry, and an exponential rise in attacks against Jews after the violence between Israel and Hamas in May 2021. 

Citing another incident of anti-Semitism that had occurred this same afternoon in Toronto, Carr said that according to B’nai Brith, these incidents are “out of control” and “anti-Semitism is the most virulent forum of hate crimes in Canada.” However, his subsequent comments not to divide around partisanship were directed towards Conservative nominee Joyce Bateman rather than alleviating the safety concerns of Jewish constituents.

According to Bateman, the increase in anti-Semitism is “dressed up as anti-Zionism” and has been particularly prevalent in protests on Canadian university campuses. Bateman said the Conservatives plan to combat online hate speech through the Criminal Code and double the budget for the security infrastructure program launched by the previous Conservative government. 

NDP nominee Julia Riddell said that the NDP planned to convene a national working group to combat online hate as part of their National Plan to address anti-Semitism, as well as work on ensuring regulations to enforce the accountability of social media platforms. In Riddell’s view, the role of education is crucial to educate youth about different cultural groups and prevent stereotyping. 

Canada’s response to UN anti-Israel bias 

While Bateman expressed the Conservatives’ support for the definition of anti-Semitism put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Riddell said that the NDP was concerned it could undermine those speaking out for the rights of Palestinians. 

“Liberation for some is liberation for none,” she said.

Bateman said the Conservatives had “grave concern” about the repeated violations of neutrality of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) towards Israel, which she described as “the only democracy in the middle east” and an ally to Canada. She said the Conservatives were committed to working toward reforming the UN Human Rights Council so “gross human rights abusers” cannot become members. According to Bateman, under the previous Conservative government, Canada had stopped funding UNGA, but as soon as they came to power, the Liberals reinstated this funding. 

She called out the party for its incongruency in embracing IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism and then welcoming MP Jenica Atwin, who has called Israel “an apartheid state.” In addition, she said the Trudeau government voting twice against Israel at the UN “aligned Canada with despots, and dictators in callous self-interest.”

According to Carr, however, UN funding was withheld until the investigation by Canadian officials was completed and the corrective action recommended by the Minister of International Development Karina Gould was taken. 

“Canada, of course, doesn’t want to have any association with any relief agency that promotes hatred, racism, or anti-Semitism,” he said, “and there can be no exceptions.”

Riddell, whose grandparents were survivors of the Nazi occupation of Poland, said healing from these experiences requires their accurate representation in all forms of media, including textbooks. Research by Riddell and others has shown the significant ways that inaccurate information in textbooks contributes to prejudice and discrimination.

Stance on Iranian-Canadian relations

Bateman and Carr were united in their unequivocal designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.

Although the NDP “strongly condemns” the provision of assistance for terrorist activities by Iran, Riddell deferred to the authority of the Minister of Public Safety to determine what entity qualifies as a terrorist organization based on comprehensive criminal and security intelligence reports.

In Bateman’s view, Trudeau failed to hold the Iranian regime accountable for the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which killed 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. She said the Conservatives would impose Magnitsky sanctions on gross human rights violators, and fulfill the motion adopted by Parliament to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. 

At the close of a debate marked by disparaging remarks between the Liberal and Conservative nominees, Riddell said the NDP is proposing a shift in the culture of politics so parties can work together. In her view, “the issues are bigger than any one party.” 

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Daniela Cohen is a freelance journalist and writer of South African origin currently based in Vancouver, B.C. Her work has been published in the Canadian Immigrant, The/La Source Newspaper, the African blog, ZEKE magazine, eJewish Philanthropy, and Living Hyphen. Daniela's particular areas of interest are migration, justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. She is also the co-founder of Identity Pages, a youth writing mentorship program.

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