The Canadian government convened its first-ever national summit on anti-Semitism on Wednesday amid warnings from its keynote speaker that concrete action against hatred of Jews was needed for the talk to have any value.
“It cannot be a one-off discussion. This will have to be an action plan developed and implemented as a result of the discussion, ”said Irwin Cotler, a former federal justice minister who is now Canada’s special envoy for the preservation of the memory of the ‘Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism at CBC broadcaster. The summit is as timely as it is needed, but it will only be effective if, in fact, we implement a plan of action. “
Cotler’s proposed plan calls on the Canadian government to mandate and implement a comprehensive national action plan to combat anti-Semitism by strengthening the security and protection of Jewish institutions, including synagogues, schools, community centers and memorial sites. The plan would also provide more resources for Holocaust and anti-Semitism education, among other elements. Cotler also stressed that Canada should learn from best practices as well as from the failures of European countries that have developed plans to tackle anti-Semitic hate crimes.
The summit comes just weeks after Jews in Canada experienced a record number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in a single month.
Bnai Brith Canada reported at least 250 such incidents in May, a month that saw the 11-day conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas accompanied by a wave of international anti-Semitism.
Those 250 incidents, the highest ever reported in a single month by Bnai Brith since the group began collecting data in 1982, included 154 incidents of harassment, 51 incidents of vandalism and 61 incidents of violence.
Wednesday’s summit was not free from political controversies, after some opposition politicians protested Tuesday evening that they had not been invited to the event.
“The government is organizing a national summit on anti-Semitism tomorrow. MPs, government officials and Jewish civic leaders have all been invited, ”tweeted Annamie Paul, who became leader of the Canadian Green Party last October after defeating an anti-Zionist candidate. “I wasn’t. I am the only Jewish leader of a federal party and a constant target of anti-Semitism. The government knows I should be there.
Paul, who recently survived a leadership challenge following criticism within the party for not going far enough to condemn Israel in resolving the Gaza conflict, confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that she had received an invitation to observe the summit, but stressed that she wanted to speak as a member of the Jewish community.
A similar complaint was made by the office of Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, the official opposition party in Canada.
In a statement, O’Toole’s office said he was not originally invited to the anti-Semitism summit or similar summit held on Thursday to fight Islamophobia, although he asked the government to speak.
“Mr. O’Toole received an invitation at 7.15pm [on Tuesday] evening to attend the summit, but despite repeated requests from stakeholders and our office, we are not part of the event, ”said spokesperson Josie Sabatino.
Wednesday’s summit coincided with the announcement by Public Safety Minister Bill Blair that Canada will spend more than $ 6 million on 150 projects to support communities at risk of hate crime.
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