CIJA is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada. We are a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada by coordinating strategic, targeted advocacy programming to advance the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community. Our goal is to enhance unity while preserving the range of viewpoints that exist among Canada’s vibrant Jewish community. When combined with a broad sense of solidarity, a healthy diversity of opinion among Jewish Canadians is a source of community strength and vitality.
Our priorities encompass a wide range of issues including human rights, religious freedom, social justice, national security, foreign affairs, and Canada-Israel relations. Our priorities are the product of extensive consultation and research with our community and reflect a broad-based consensus.
Your direct feedback helps us to advocate more effectively. Tell us what issues matter to you, your family, and your community.
The issues below are listed alphabetically by category, not by importance.
Your Concerns Are Our Priorities
CIJA’s national campus team works with Hillels and Jewish student groups across Canada to manage advocacy challenges, monitor anti-Israel activism and share best practices. We provide advice, resources and support for students dealing with campus incidents, including academic complaints and security concerns. CIJA also trains students on how to run for student government and win campus votes – both crucial in defending the rights of students and countering anti-Israel activism on campus. Additionally, CIJA’s national director of community security liaises with university officials and Hillels to ensure Jewish students enjoy a secure campus experience.
Freedom of expression is all too often abused on university campuses by those seeking to slander Israel and the Jewish people. CIJA’s #ThisIsIsrael and #ThisIsHamas campaigns provide hard-hitting facts through social media and print materials to help students counter pernicious lies. We also train hundreds of students every year in media and communications techniques, using strategic messaging based on extensive polling and focus-group research. Additionally, CIJA works with pro-Israel campus organizations around the world – including key partners in the United States, Europe and Israel – to monitor global trends and share strategies and programs with students in Canada.
Israel’s detractors want the Jewish state to be defined solely by conflict and controversy. In addition to countering anti-Israel slander, CIJA gives students the confidence to stand proudly with Israel and share its extraordinary accomplishments with other students. CIJA’s internationally acclaimed Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM) campaign empowers students to promote Israeli technology, culture and human rights, including innovative grassroots activities hosted by SDM interns on university campuses across Canada.
CIJA brings more than 50 non-Jewish Canadian students, faculty and university administrators to Israel every year, providing firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing Israel and the values Canadians and Israelis share. We work to advance the bilateral academic relationship, including joint Canada-Israel research programs, study trips to Israel, faculty exchanges and formal university partnerships.
These initiatives amount to a significant defeat for those advocating an academic boycott of Israel. For example, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (UnivCan), which represents 97 Canadian universities, signed a formal partnership with the association representing Israeli universities during a 2013 trip to Israel co-sponsored by CIJA. UnivCan noted: “Canada and Israel share a common commitment to educational attainment and research excellence, and are among the best in the world in these important indicators of global leadership… Increased collaboration with universities in Israel will strengthen the research and teaching missions of Canada’s universities and benefit both countries’ economies.”
Canada in the World
When Israelis have faced serious diplomatic and security challenges in recent years, the Government of Canada has extended remarkably clear, unequivocal support for the people of Israel and the state of Israel. In general, this has received strong cross-party backing on Parliament Hill, demonstrating that this support transcends party lines and is rooted in the democratic values Canadians and Israelis share. The Canadian Jewish community can be proud of the fact that Canada is widely considered to be one of Israel’s strongest and most reliable friends in the world.
CIJA has been at the forefront of strengthening support for and understanding of the role of Israel in Jewish identity among parliamentarians across the political spectrum. This has included annual fact-finding missions to Israel for parliamentarians and political staff, a parliamentary internship program for Canadian Jewish graduates, hosting and participating in annual events on Parliament Hill, and maintaining a full-time Government Relations team in Ottawa to build and sustain relationships with members of all parties.
Canadian cross-party support for the people of Israel and the state of Israel is at an all-time high – a reality that, given the shifting and complex regional situation, should not be understated. The challenge for the Jewish community in the near future will be not only to maintain this positive momentum but also to translate it into wider areas of Canada-Israel cooperation. CIJA will continue to build understanding in the political realm while working to enable Canadians in other spheres – including business, academia, and civil society – to appreciate Israel’s central role in Jewish identity and as a source of solutions to common issues and a country that shares our values.
One of CIJA’s foundational evidence-based principles, Shared Values is an approach to advocacy based on the view that we must demonstrate why our cause is relevant to the interests and values of our audience rather than attempt to convince our them why it matters to us. This approach recognizes that most people know very little about Israel and Israelis, and therefore care little about the difficult challenges that Israel faces in the turbulent Middle East.
Organizations and individuals disinterested in the conflict can be engaged based on an appreciation of Israel’s contributions to the world and the many things Israelis and Canadians have in common. This includes Israel’s commitment to democracy, human rights, health care, education, technology, the environment, and a vibrant arts and cultural scene. Highlighting Israel beyond-the-conflict and exploring these shared values opens the door to deeper conversations on the challenges facing Israel, whether it is terrorism, the elusiveness of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord or strategic threats emanating from Iran and elsewhere.
In this framework, we do not simply fight boycotts where they appear, but rather work to strengthen and expand practical bilateral ties across government, business, and civil society. In the past few years alone, CIJA has hosted hundreds of Canadian influencers on fact-finding missions to Israel. This includes homeland security professionals, LGBT activists, university presidents, First Nations members, journalists, athletes, green technology entrepreneurs, comedians, and food and wine writers. Each participant on these trips was able to connect to Israel in a way that was relevant to them, and their consideration of the challenges facing Israel continues to be based on the core values Canadians and Israelis share.
CIJA has long advocated that the full weight of Canadian diplomacy be applied to pressure the Iranian regime to cease its nuclear proliferation, sponsorship of terrorism, human rights abuse and genocidal calls for the destruction of Israel. This approach has been met, to a large extent, with support across party lines on Parliament Hill, with all major parties expressing degrees of skepticism regarding Iranian compliance with its nuclear agreement with the P5+1.
CIJA continues to call for pressure on Iran. Pressure brought the Islamic Republic to the nuclear negotiations and is the best way to ensure Iranian compliance. Any relief of Canadian sanctions should depend on tangible and significant progress by Iran in fulfilling its nuclear, terrorism and human rights obligations. Canada’s position should also continue to reflect an appreciation of the legitimate security concerns of the Israeli people in the face of Iran’s genocidal threats.
Citizenship and Immigration
Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, became law on June 19, 2014. This legislation was designed to ensure immigrants to Canada could enjoy the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship more quickly, efficiently and with greater integrity.
CIJA testified in the House of Commons supporting the bill, but we continue to advocate for our suggested amendments that would explicitly codify safeguards to ensure fair implementation of the law, specifically with regard to the revocation of citizenship for dual nationals. We also recommended that war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide be included as grounds for revoking citizenship. Dual nationals could have their Canadian citizenship revoked for lying about these crimes before becoming citizens, and should be subject to the same consequence for committing them while using a Canadian passport.
On June 28, 2012, Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, became law in an attempt to reduce a record backlog of unprocessed refugee claims and high processing costs for refugee applicants from the EU. These systemic challenges left refugee claimants in limbo, unable to restart their lives and fully enter Canadian society.
In CIJA’s assessment, the changes offered by C-31 represented significant improvements in protecting the safety and security of Canadians, deterring human smuggling and dispensing with unsubstantiated refugee claims fairly and quickly. On balance, C-31 reformed Canada’s refugee system to better respond effectively and compassionately to those in need and to identify and remove those who try to abuse the generosity of Canadians.
CIJA continues to advocate for three small but significant improvements to the system. First, clear provisions are required for how a designated country of origin (DCO) is removed from the DCO list should the situation in that country merit a reconsideration. Second, DCO refugee applicants should have access to the same health coverage as non-DCO claimants. Third, we recommended that care be taken to avoid separating families that are part of an irregular arrival. Once an irregular arrival claimant’s identity and status are confirmed and their refugee status has been approved, they should be treated in the same category as all other approved claimants and not face a five year waiting period before they can sponsor family members.
Enhancing Jewish Life
The Jewish community has faced increasing challenges in preserving access to and fair market price for kosher food products. In 2012, CIJA successfully intervened to secure a special exemption from Canada’s dairy tariff system for Cholov Yisroel cheese imports, stopping a substantial price increase across Canada that would have impacted families, caterers, and restaurants. CIJA also successfully lobbied to prevent the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from imposing uniform ‘stun’ regulations that would have ended kosher slaughter in Canada.
In May 2013, Ontario’s only kosher chicken processor ceased operations. A Montreal supplier has met sizeable demand throughout Ontario and Manitoba. However, decreased supply and increased delivery distances have led to an escalation in prices. CIJA is working to facilitate a solution based on collaboration between the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, the Kashruth Council of Ontario (COR), and private sector partners with experience in kosher meat. Our particular focus is on navigating the regulatory challenges and liaising with federal government officials, who have been keen to resolve this situation.
The cost of Jewish education is increasing faster than household incomes, becoming less affordable for families with each passing year. While many factors account for this, CIJA is committed to advancing public policies that will ensure Jewish education is attainable for every Jewish family. CIJA has established an education task force in Toronto, composed of a broad cross-section of experts and organizations, with the goal of exploring and advocating for public sector support for Jewish day schools to reduce the costs borne by parents.
Fighting Antisemitism and Protecting Human Rights
A Private Member’s Bill, C-304, became law in June 2013, eliminating section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 13 was created as a shield to protect the most vulnerable members of society from hate speech. It provided an effective tool in the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Unfortunately, section 13 was used increasingly to stifle valid criticism and chill legitimate expression, and became a divisive issue within the Jewish community.
In his 2008 report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, law professor Richard Moon noted a lack of prosecution of hate speech under the Criminal Code “not because the attorney general decided that the case was weak but because she/he did not regard hate speech as a significant problem.” With the repeal of section 13, this deficiency must be corrected. CIJA has reached out to the RCMP and federal, provincial, and territorial justice ministers with specific recommendations to ensure a more active use of Criminal Code hate speech provisions, including enhanced public and police education on hate speech issues.
To close the existing gap in Canada’s hate speech protections, CIJA’s recommendations should be adopted, or new legislation must be enacted to replace the former section 13 with a new law that strikes an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and protection from hate, with specific provisions to prevent its abuse.
Canada is the only G7 nation without specific protections against genetic discrimination. Under the current law, Canadians who undergo genetic testing can be compelled by insurance companies or employers to disclose their results. As a result, some applicants may be denied employment or insurance based on their genes.
Jewish Canadians are particularly susceptible to genetic discrimination, with certain genetic markers that indicate an elevated risk for breast and ovarian cancer disproportionately found among Jews. When tested and treated, patients with this marker significantly reduce their chances of becoming ill. Tragically, fear of discrimination motivates some people to avoid crucial genetic tests that could have a serious impact on their health and the health of their children.
Canada continues to invest billions of dollars in promising genome research, the benefits of which will be diminished due to genetic discrimination. Failing to safeguard genetic test information will have lasting consequences for the health and wellbeing of all Canadians. It is time for the law to catch up with science and end genetic discrimination in Canada, which requires legislative action at both the federal and provincial levels.
In November 2009, a Private Member’s Bill, C-483: An Act to Amend the State Immunity Act (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture) was introduced in the House of Commons. This bill sought to end immunity for states that commit these heinous crimes, allowing them to be sued in Canadian courts, providing victims with a measure of justice.
While the goal of this legislation is noble and worthy, it requires significant changes to garner our endorsement. In some jurisdictions, similar provisions have been exploited as a tool to delegitimize Israel, a phenomenon known as lawfare. In lawfare cases, Israel is attacked in the courts even though there is little to no chance of the plaintiff winning a case. The purpose is to isolate Israel and to drain Israel and its supporters of financial resources and energy.
Bill C-483 failed to ensure that Canada’s courts will not be exploited for these purposes, whether against Israel or other Canadian allies like the United States and the United Kingdom. CIJA can only support this initiative if sufficient safeguards are included in its next iteration.
The Jewish community has long been a leading advocate for equality in Canadian society. This encompasses the particular needs of our own community and extends to support other vulnerable groups facing similar challenges.
In keeping with this legacy, CIJA endorsed legislation to provide members of the transgendered community enhanced legal protection equal to that which other groups victimized by hate crimes and violence, like the Jewish community, receive.
Past experience demonstrates that explicit reference in the Criminal Code increases the likelihood that police or crown attorneys will correctly identify a criminal act as hate or bias-motivated. Our community understands this dynamic all too well, which is why CIJA will continue to call for gender identity to be included as an “aggravating circumstance” in the Criminal Code and as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Keeping Our Community Safe
The federal Security Infrastructure Program (SIP) assists communities at risk of hate-motivated crime to improve security infrastructure for places of worship, schools and community centres. The program has provided significant support for Jewish communities across the country, and CIJA regularly helps Jewish organizations access this funding. CIJA is advocating for modifications to the program that would maximize the effectiveness of the SIP and further ensure the safety of our community.
The growing threat of terrorist violence targeting at-risk communities like ours requires financial resources not currently provided through SIP. Current SIP approval criteria place greater weight on applications from institutions that have a history of hate activity targeting their location or area. These criteria, however understandable, make it difficult for communities to secure necessary funding before an attack takes place.
Lastly, the SIP only provides external infrastructure support, including useful elements such as fencing, cameras and lighting. However, some community facilities, such as schools, also require internal security infrastructure, including cameras, security film for windows, security doors, and locks. Others require security guards, which are not included in the current program.
The Jewish community continues to be one of Canada’s most frequent victims of hate crimes. A June 2015 Statistics Canada report concluded that Jews are targeted for hate more than any other religious minority in Canada. Under the current law, hate- or bias-motivated crime targeting a religious institution, such as a synagogue, is a specific offence with serious penalties. However, this designation does not currently extend to schools and community centres.
CIJA has been advocating for legislative changes to address this shortfall. For example, CIJA supported a Private Member’s Bill on this issue, C-510, which enjoyed broad cross-party support but did not pass before the election. Bill C-510 would have made it a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to ten years in prison, to commit a crime motivated by bias, prejudice or hate targeting educational and other community institutions. This extends the criminal penalties already in place for those who target synagogues to other community facilities.
Throughout the world, Jewish communities represent a primary target for terrorists. Attacks on Jewish community centres, schools and synagogues have taken place in Israel, Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the United States and in Montreal. There is significant fear that such attacks are possible elsewhere in Canada. The terrorists who attempted to destroy a VIA Rail train and the BC Legislature made clear their intention to target Jews. In a recent video, Al-Shabab, a listed terrorist entity, called for an attack on the West Edmonton mall explicitly because its owners are Jewish.
As an at-risk community, we have a major stake in Canada’s antiterrorism legislation. Accordingly, CIJA testified before a House of Commons committee in favour of Bill C-51: Antiterrorism Act 2015, and provided concrete, innovative proposals to address oversight and privacy concerns. CIJA continues to support antiterrorism legislation that will help keep Canadians safe in balance with our fundamental rights and freedoms.
Social Justice and Poverty Reduction
CIJA worked closely with organizations in other ethno-cultural communities in a research project to evaluate the added value offered by Jewish community social service providers, such as Jewish Family and Child in Toronto. The results demonstrate that ethno-specific social service agencies, which operate on a smaller scale than mainstream providers, are able to provide care more appropriately for clients, resulting in improved measurable outcomes and better access to the most vulnerable in their respective communities.
CIJA is committed to ensuring significant ethno-cultural representation in government planning, funding and delivery of social services, a crucial effort to maximize the impact of Jewish non-profit social service agencies across Canada.
CIJA continues to advocate for increased funding for affordable housing, which is mainly subsidized through agreements between the federal government and its provincial or territorial counterparts.
In the 1960s, the federal government began subsidizing social housing, providing funds for ongoing maintenance and affordable rent for the duration of the mortgage term on the property, typically 35-50 years. As the terms of these mortgages expire, so do the rent subsidies.
The Government of Canada’s Investment in Affordable Housing represents a significant step to address this problem, including a 2013 allocation of $1.25 billion over five years, matched and administered by the provinces. These funds may be used to cover rent subsidies, maintenance, building costs for new units, or existing properties where mortgage terms have expired. Despite this significant contribution, affordable housing remains precarious for many residents of properties past or approaching the end of their mortgage term.
This issue impacts Jewish Canadians across the country. The rate of poverty in the Jewish community is increasing, while the cost of living is rising and the number of affordable housing options is limited. According to the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA’s analysis of the 2011 National Household Survey, 14.6% of Jewish Canadians are living in poverty, compared to 13.6% in 2001. The largest number of Jewish poor live in Toronto (24,310), but the highest incidence of poverty occurs in Montreal (20%). Nearly one in every six Jewish seniors in Canada is living below the poverty line.
Innumerable Jewish homes, businesses and properties seized by the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII were never recovered, and countless survivors have not been compensated for their losses. In many European countries, laws allowing for restitution are non-existent or woefully inadequate. This situation is particularly concerning given that tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors around the world live in poverty.
CIJA has placed this issue on the agenda of all major federal political parties in Canada. The Government of Canada directed Canadian diplomats in relevant countries to raise the restitution issue with relevant European governments in early 2015. Strong statements of support from all three major federal parties on this issue affirm that Canada’s call for restitution is backed by a non-partisan consensus.
There has been vigorous debate over the legalization of assisted dying, revealing a diversity of viewpoints rooted in compassion, religion, ethics, and medicine. This deeply personal and contentious issue has the potential to affect every family in our community.
The SCC’s decision gave government one year to implement legislation and / or regulation before the existing law prohibiting assisted dying is rescinded. This deadline has since been extended by four months to give government more time to consider and implement an appropriate response.
CIJA has been engaged on this issue from the outset, convening a community town hall to discuss the implications of the SCC’s ruling and embarking on a national consultation initiative to solicit feedback from community members and experts to inform our interventions.
CIJA made representations to the federal and provincial/territorial panels advising government on the issue, and submitted a written brief to Parliament’s Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.
CIJA’s interventions have focused primarily on three points:
- Safeguarding informed consent and ensuring adequate protections for the vulnerable
- Safeguarding the right of healthcare providers to refuse to participate in assisted dying for reasons of conscience
- Securing the orientation of medical assistance in dying as one end-of-life care option among many, including universal access to high quality palliative care
On April 14, 2016, Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tabled Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying).
CIJA has subsequently provided oral and written testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as it considers the bill. We have also been invited to testify before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
As we continue to engage Parliamentarians on this deeply personal and contentious issue, we would appreciate your feedback to help inform our ongoing interventions. Please share your perspective below.