When asked what CIJA does, I explain that our work can be distilled to three core areas of focus: Canada, Israel and Community.
We propose policies that make Canada a better country for our community, and all Canadians. We work to build non-partisan support for Israel, educate Canadians about the values we share with Israelis, and counter hatred against the Jewish State – the new antisemitism. And, we strengthen our community by mobilizing Jewish Canadians to be active in public policy and civil society, while taking measures to secure our community from antisemitism and physical threats.
It sounds like a broad, ambitious mandate…and it is. On any given day, our team could be meeting journalists, testifying before a parliamentary committee, conducting a security audit at a Jewish day school, organizing an event with First Nations partners, or hosting a fact-finding mission to Israel for campus leaders.
Today, however, I will zero in on four domestic policy issues in which we’re actively engaged as Parliament resumes work this fall.
1. An Opportunity: National Disabilities Act
The federal government is currently holding consultations with Canadians as it undertakes development of a National Disabilities Act. This issue speaks to the very core of Jewish and Canadian values. Many in our community, from Federation-funded social service agencies to individuals and families with special needs, have invaluable expertise and insight to offer. To inform our policy submission for the government’s consideration, we will first consult Jewish agencies and community members to draw on their wisdom and experience. I encourage you to reach out to us if you have suggestions.
2. An Imminent Decision: Security Infrastructure Program
We have learned that the federal government is about to make a decision regarding the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), which provides funding to at-risk community institutions (including synagogues and day schools) to offset the costs of security measures. CIJA has called on the government to increase funding for this valuable program, make it accessible to more community institutions, and allow SIP funds to be used for vital indoor security measures, such as locks, cameras, and human resources. While we expect an announcement this fall, there is still time for you to join the thousands who have written to the Public Safety Minister to call for these much-needed changes.
3. A Vital Cause: Trans Rights Bill
In May, the government tabled Bill C-16, which will ensure that gender identity and expression are listed in hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code and as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act. As a member of the steering committee of Trans Equality Canada, CIJA is an enthusiastic supporter of this bill – and we’re hoping that the government brings this forward for a Second Reading vote in the House this fall. Coincidentally, just this week, Angus Reid released polling data showing 84% of Canadians support this initiative – an encouraging sign of broad public recognition that hate in any form is unacceptable.
4. A Potential Challenge: Animal Welfare Legislation
A private member’s bill (C-246) has the potential to negatively impact the kosher meat sector. While no one in our community would disagree with the need for strong animal cruelty laws, ambiguous wording in this bill could – as has happened in some European countries – open the door to undue restrictions and even prohibitions on the preparation of kosher meat (which, ironically, studies have proven to be a painless process). CIJA is educating MPs about our concerns with this bill and the need to ensure it does not pass unless amended to protect kosher producers and their customers.
These are just four of the issues our team will be tackling over the coming months. If you are interested in advocating on these or any other policies, I encourage you to connect with us.