Sept. 17, 2020 – The City of Brampton has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown announced on Sept. 17 the city had decided to adopt the IHRA definition in response to a motion brought forward by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Rabbi Michal Shekel of Congregation Har Tikvah of Brampton.
Brampton became the 10th city in Ontario to formally adopt the IHRA definition, “demonstrating strong support in the fight against antisemitism across the province,” stated Barbara Bank, chair of CIJA GTA.
In August, CIJA met with Brown to discuss the importance of the definition as a tool to identify antisemitism. “We appreciate the swift action taken by Mayor Brown and Brampton councillors, with the support of the local Jewish community,” said Bank.
By adopting the IHRA definition, Brampton “is sending a clear message to its residents that it is taking real action in the fight against antisemitism and hate,” said Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre President and CEO Michael Levitt. “As the Jewish community remains the most targeted group when it comes to hate crimes across the country, it’s imperative for all levels of government to take steps to address and combat antisemitism, including adopting the IHRA definition.”
Brown tweeted that his city endorsed the definition “as part of pledge to combat bigotry and hatred.”
The City of Barrie is one step closer to adopting the definition, after being urged to abandon the idea by its foes, who feel it would stifle criticism of Israel. Click here for more information.
Another racist has been unmasked in the Canadian military, this time in the army.
Army commander Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre has promised that Canadian Ranger Erik Myggland will be out of the armed forces “within weeks.”
According to a recent CBC report, Myggland has a history of involvement with the white supremacist group Soldiers of Odin.
The army’s commitment to rid itself of another racist in uniform was welcomed by Canadian Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
“We support and appreciate this decision by the Canadian Army to finally remove an individual involved in far-right activity and hateful conduct from its ranks, a decision that sends a message that those who are involved in hate groups and activity are not welcome in the military,” FSWC president and CEO Michael Levitt said in a news release.
“We commend leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces, including Army and Navy commanders, as well as [Minister of National Defence Harjit] Sajjan for speaking out against extremism in the military and taking steps that show it will not be tolerated.”
The action against Myggland follows the revelation last year that a navy reservist in Calgary was a long-time supporter of the racist website Iron March, and once offered to arrange the sale of military grade weapons to another group.
Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was suspended after that revelation but was reinstated in July after saying he had been rehabilitated and no longer held racist views.
That decision to reinstate him is being subjected to a “command level review” by navy commander Vice-Admiral Art McDonald.
The Myggland decision comes two weeks after FSWC leaders met with Sajjan, who promised to drive racists and white supremacists out of the Canadian Forces.
In a statement following that meeting Sajjan said there is “no place for hate in Canada, and membership in organizations that promote hate goes against everything that Canadians value, and what the Canadian Armed Forces stand for.”
Several courses of action have been suggested to military leaders. FSWC recommends a zero-tolerance policy and quick dismissal of any members found to be involved in extremist activity.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (of which CJR publisher Bernie Farber is chair) has urged restoring Section 13 of the federal Human Rights Code, which allowed individuals to pursue groups espousing hate speech.
The section was removed by the previous Conservative government, which said it restricted free expression.
Anti-hate activists have also urged Canadian law enforcement to make better use of Criminal Code provisions against hate speech.
Under the current system, provincial attorneys general must sign off on turning a charge into a hate crime – something too many have been reluctant to do for fear of constraining free speech.
Activists have also claimed the military has a habit of side-stepping such issues by slapping the wrists of members caught making racist statements or being involved in demonstrations.
That’s what happened in 2017 when five Canadian sailors were identified as part of a crowd that disrupted a Native protest in a park named for Lord Edward Cornwallis. A founder of Halifax, the British officer is also the author of a policy of genocide against the area’s Indigenous population.
Four sailors faced probation but were returned to active duty. The fifth left the military.
Toronto-area Liberal Member of Parliament Michael Levitt has announced he is retiring from politics to become president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).
Levitt has represented the riding of York Centre since 2015, when he defeated Conservative Mark Adler. He was re-elected in last year’s federal vote. His final day as an MP will be Sept. 1.
In a message to his constituents posted on Facebook, Levitt said the job of MP in Ottawa took a toll on his personal life.
“It hasn’t been without consequence to those I love most, and while it is an incredible privilege to serve the people of York Centre, I know deep down that now is the time for me to put family first and come back home, both physically and mentally,” he said.
Despite that, he said he “loved every minute” of political life. “…it has been the adventure of a lifetime.”
Among a handful of Jewish MPs, Levitt chaired the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group; the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development; and the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights.
He will replace Avi Benlolo as head of the FSWC. No reason was given for Benlolo’s departure from the organization earlier this summer.
“FSWC is excited to welcome Michael Levitt as President and CEO,” the group’s chair, Fred Waks, said in a press release. “As the Member of Parliament for York Centre, Michael is deeply rooted in the community and his work in the fields of foreign affairs and human rights has garnered him respect from advocates at home and abroad. His distinguished career advocating for human rights, and his support for Israel and the fight against antisemitism, bring a high level of leadership and profile to our organization. We could not be more excited for the future.”
As an MP, Levitt frequently spoke out on Israel and issues of concern to Canada’s Jews, co-sponsoring a 2018 bill to make May of each year Canadian Jewish Heritage Month.
He was visible when Canada said it would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, and he often addressed anti-Jewish incidents in the country.
But Levitt found himself on the defensive last autumn when Ottawa abruptly changed its vote on a resolution at the United Nations to oppose Israel, which filed a diplomatic complaint against Canada.
Levitt was also a member of the Raoul Wallenberg Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights. Before entering politics, he helped found the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee.
In the FSWC statement, Levitt said he plans “to continue the organization’s proud legacy and the work I’ve done over the past five years in fighting antisemitism and promoting human rights, including bringing a renewed focus to the issue of systemic racism in Canada and how we can work together to address it.”
His appointment earned praise from former justice minister and international human rights advocate Irwin Cotler, who said Levitt’s “extensive experience and expertise dovetail perfectly with the mission and purpose of [FSWC], acting on the universal lessons of the Holocaust – combating racism and antisemitism and safeguarding Israel and the Jewish people.”
According to iPolitics, Levitt’s departure will trigger the first byelection of the current Parliament and will be the first during the COVID pandemic.