Contesting Bill 168
Controversial Antisemitism Bill Passes Second Reading in Ontario
Independent Jewish Voices Canada is deeply dismayed and concerned with the Ontario Government’s decision to unanimously approve Bill 168, the Combating Antisemitism Act, on its second reading at Queen’s Park yesterday. The Bill seeks to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) flawed and controversial definition of antisemitism.
Bill 168 was approved on second reading by a vote of 55-0, and now goes to the standing committee on justice policy for review and public input before a final vote. Particularly concerning is that not one NDP MPP voted against the Bill, representing a serious betrayal of the party’s commitments toward human rights and progressive values in Ontario. Conspicuously absent were nearly the entire Ontario NDP caucus, including party leader Andrea Horwath, and anti-racism critic Laura Mae Lindo. In a bizarre move, NDP MPP John Vanthof spoke to concerns around the impact on freedom of expression that Bill 168 represents, but then voted in favour of the Bill.
Ontario NDP MPPs should be reminded that only 4 years ago, Bill 202 came up for debate at Queen’s Park – a bill that would have imposed severe limitations on the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, prevented the province with doing business with institutions that supported BDS, and stopped universities from being able to endorse the movement. Luckily, this profoundly anti-democratic Bill failed on second reading. At the time, then Ontario NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh spoke passionately against the Bill in the interests of having a free and open societal debate on Israel-Palestine. It is profoundly troubling that the NDP has strayed so far from this position that one of its most prominent members took not so long ago.
IJV Canada wishes to thank all of our supporters, over one thousand of whom sent in emails to members of Ontario’s Parliament to oppose Bill 168. In addition, we thank the many organizations that supported us in our fight, such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Canadian Federation of Students, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, the Canadian Friends Service Committee, and the BC Civil Liberties Association. Moreover, a group of over 350 Canadian academics launched an open letter yesterday (see letter below) declaring their opposition to the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.
While yesterday’s vote at Queen’s Park was extremely disappointing, IJV Canada remains committed to the fight against Bill 168, and against the IHRA antisemitism definition more broadly. We believe that it is crucial to fight antisemitism and white supremacy, while at the same time protecting freedom of expression and standing up for Palestinian human rights.
In terms of the next steps, IJV Canada intends to weigh in on Bill 168 during the period of public input, and we will keep our members posted as to the next action steps. •
Open Letter from Canadian Academics Opposing the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
Nearly 350 Canadian academics have signed on to an open letter opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Our letter, and the signatories, are below. If you are an academic in Canada and would like to sign on to the letter, please fill out the form here.
We, the undersigned members of the Canadian academic community wish to express our opposition to the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism by academic institutions and other public bodies in Canada.
Antisemitism is an imminent and increasingly deadly threat to Jews. However, we do not believe that the adoption of this definition serves the purpose of defeating this insidious form of hatred. The IHRA definition, which has recently been adopted by the Canadian government, is worded in such a way as to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism. This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from accountability to universal standards of human rights and international law. We believe that the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism by Canadian academic institutions would create a “chilly climate” in relation to forms of teaching, research and activism on Israel and Palestine. We urge all those who value honest debate and academic freedom to reject the imposition of a definition that would imperil the pursuit of truth and the legitimate expression of dissent.
For more information, including Independent Jewish Voices’ full report on the IHRA definition, please visit: www.noihra.ca. Please feel free to contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Amina Jamal, Associate Professor of Sociology, Ryerson University
- Harjeet Badwall, Associate Professor, York University
- Guida Man, Associate Professor, York University
- Chris Chapman, Associate Professor, York University
- Kristin Smith, Associate Professor, Ryerson University
- Sheryl Nestel, PhD, Independent Scholar
- Donna Jeffery, Associate Professor, UVIC
- Deborah Cowen, Professor, University of Toronto
- b.h. Yael, Professor, past Chair Senate, OCAD University
- Bill Skidmore, Instructor, Carleton University
- Denis Kosseim, philosophy professor, André-Laurendeau College
- Richard Fung, Professor Emeritus, OCAD University
- Martin Klein, Professor emeritus, University of Toronto
- M. V. Ramana, Professor, University of British Columbia
- Mark Golden, professor (emeritus) of Classics, University of Winnipeg
- Neil Naiman, Senior Scholar, York University
- Gerardo Otero, Professor of International Studies and Sociology, Simon Fraser University
- Michael Keefer, Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
- Dr. M. Nandorfy, University of Guelph
- Professor Audrey Macklin, University of Toronto (Law/Criminology and Sociolegal Studies)
- Elizabeth Whitmore, Professor Emerita, Carleton Univerity
- Michael Lebowitz, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University
Full list of signers.