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 advancing the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.
We can’t do it alone. We depend on active, engaged and informed grassroots members of our community to help us advance issues with Canadian decision makers.
You don’t need to be an expert to be an advocate. This guide is designed to empower you to carry key messages to candidates in advance of the upcoming federal election. After reviewing these materials, you should find yourself conversant in the issues and ready to make an impact.
These public policy issues are key areas of concern for the Jewish community. It is not a comprehensive account of our community’s diverse interests but, rather, a snapshot of some pressing federal issues impacting those affiliated with their local Jewish Federation.
The Conservatives, NDP or Liberals could form the next government. The issues in this guide transcend party lines and should be considered carefully by community members and candidates, regardless of their political stripe.
The issues below are listed alphabetically by category, not by importance.
[accordion button=”Increasing Bilateral Trade, R&D and Scientific Cooperation”]
The first bilateral free trade accord Canada ever signed was with Israel in 1996, a testament to the unique friendship between Canada and the people and land of Israel. Since the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) came into effect, two-way trade between Canada and Israel has tripled to $1.6 billion in merchandise, a powerful response to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel.
On July 21, 2015, Canada and Israel reached a significant new milestone by concluding negotiations to expand CIFTA. The modernized free trade agreement will empower Canadians and Israelis to leverage their unique strengths for mutual benefit, creating high-value jobs, boosting vital industries, and enhancing R&D in both countries.
The bilateral relationship is particularly strong in the areas of science, technology and innovation, based on more than 20 years of close collaboration and jointly funded research with universities and the private sector. Growth has been fostered in a number of important ways, including collaboration through the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation, the National Research Council, the Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund, and the Canada-Israel Health Research Program.
The expanding trade and scientific relationship is something to be celebrated, but it is crucial that progress be made to fully exploit its untapped potential. Greater synergy in the Canada-Israel partnership can create further substantial benefits for both countries through new innovations, jobs created, and billions of dollars in additional bilateral trade.
Points to Consider
- The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is a prime example of the mutual benefit accrued to the people of Canada and the people of Israel alike through close cooperation on the basis of shared strengths, interests and values.
- Growth in the scientific relationship has the potential to change lives around the world through new innovations in medicine, communications, agriculture and energy technology.
- People-to-people and government-to-government ties are exceptionally strong between Canada and Israel. Both must be leveraged to realize the full potential of business-to-business relationships.
[feature_text]Objective: We urge the next government to organize a trade mission to Israel and to foster additional growth by securing key bilateral programs for the long term.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Fostering Diplomatic Cooperation”]
Canada has played a key role in supporting the people and the land of Israel since before the Jewish state’s independence. Canadian Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand, Canada’s representative on the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), was a chief proponent of the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Arab, at the end of British rule in Palestine.
Canada voted in favour of this proposal at the UN General Assembly in 1947, despite British and Commonwealth pressure to abstain, affirming the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. The State of Israel declared independence less than a year later.
Canada has since enjoyed almost 70 years of friendship and diplomatic cooperation with Israel. Whether standing up at the United Nations in opposition to slanderous, anti-Israel resolutions, or acting as the diplomatic conduit representing Israel in Cuba and Venezuela, Canada enjoys strong diplomatic ties with its fellow democracy, based on shared values and shared interests.
Reflecting Canada’s commitment to the values and charter of the United Nations, the Government of Canada played an instrumental role in the accession of Israel as a full member of the Western European and Others Group at the United Nations in Geneva on December 2, 2013. Until that point, Israel had been the only country denied membership in the regional grouping system due to a boycott by Arab and Muslim countries.
Most recently, Canada played a helpful role in the appointment of an Israeli diplomat as Deputy Chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, which functions as the UN’s finance ministry, managing a budget of more than $11 billion that includes peacekeeping, development and human rights.
Points to Consider:
- Canada and Israel have a longstanding history of friendship and diplomatic cooperation based on a foundation of shared values and shared interests.
- Canada’s record of standing up for Israel on the international stage traces its roots to the very inception of the Jewish state, based on the universality of human rights and dignity.
[feature_text]Objective: The next government should continue Canada’s proud tradition of friendship and diplomatic cooperation with the people and land of Israel, both bilaterally and at multilateral forums, in order to advance Canada’s values and national interests.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Maintaining a Constructive Middle East Policy”]
Today, Canada is widely considered to be Israel’s closest and most reliable friend. When Israelis faced serious challenges in recent years, the Government of Canada extended clear, unequivocal, and remarkable support for the Jewish state. In general, this has received cross-partisan endorsement on Parliament Hill, reflecting the fact that support for the people and land of Israel is rooted in the democratic values Canadians and Israelis share. This is consistent with Canadian policy for decades.
The leaders of all major federal political parties have explicitly rejected the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel. Regardless of the governing party, Canada has maintained positive relations with Israel for nearly 70 years. Canada has consistently recognized the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, emphasized support for Israel’s right to defend its people from terror attacks, and called for the necessity of a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At important junctures, Canada has played a key role in promoting peace in the region, including serving on the UN Special Committee on Palestine that recommended the two-state solution in 1947, and as “Gavel Holder” of the multilateral Refugee Working Group beginning in the 1990s. Most recently, the Government of Canada was the first outside Israel to officially recognize, as a cabinet decision, the plight of the nearly one million Jewish refugees who were forced to flee their homes in Arab countries in the years immediately following Israel’s founding in 1948. This decision was a response to a recommendation unanimously supported by all parties in the House of Commons.
Points to Consider:
- From the outset, Canada has been one of the primary proponents of the two-state solution and has supported bilateral and multilateral efforts to achieve peace.
Canada has long played a constructive role in the Middle East, particularly with regard to fostering cooperation and resolving conflict.
- Canada’s close relationship with Israel enhances its substantive role in fostering better Israeli-Palestinian relations. According to Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ office, “Canada is eligible to play even a better role as friends of Israel.”
[feature_text]Objective: The next government should continue to demonstrate that Middle East peace is not a zero-sum proposal and oppose efforts to isolate Israel. Close friendship with Israel does not compromise Canada’s ability to help the Palestinians or advocate for a comprehensive solution. In fact, it enhances Canada’s ability to play a meaningful role.[/feature_text]
Championing Human Rights
[accordion button=”Preventing Genetic Discrimination”]
Ordinary Canadians across the country are at risk of being discriminated against based on their DNA. Given the increasingly important role of genetic testing in identifying, treating, and preventing disease, genetic discrimination is a serious issue about which all Canadians should be concerned.
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 the discovery of certain genetic markers disproportionately prevalent among Jews that indicate an elevated risk for breast and ovarian cancer. When tested and treated, those with this marker significantly reduce the chances of becoming ill. However, fear of discrimination motivates some to forego crucial genetic tests, a decision that could have a serious impact on their health and the health of their families.
The Government of Canada introduced Bill C-68: Preventing Genetic Discrimination Act on June 9, 2015, an important first step toward prohibiting genetic discrimination in Canada.
Points to Consider:
- Canada continues to invest billions of dollars in promising genome research, the benefits of which will be diminished and degraded due to genetic discrimination. Failing to safeguard genetic test information will have lasting consequences for the health and wellbeing of all Canadians.
- Citing genetic discrimination, some families do not participate in studies that could have life-changing diagnostic implications for their seriously ill children. Canadians should never have to choose between potentially life-saving medical tests and employment or insurance.
- It is time for the law to catch up with science and ensure an end to genetic discrimination in Canada.
[feature_text]Objective: We urge the next government to commit in its Speech from the Throne to enact legislation prohibiting genetic discrimination in all federal jurisdictions. We also encourage the next government to work with the provinces to ensure that genetic discrimination is banned for all Canadians, regardless of where they work or reside.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Ensuring Equality in Canadian Society “]
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 June 2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation announced a requirement for Sikh players to remove religious headgear during league-sanctioned games. In recognition of the Jewish community’s historic experience with religious restrictions, and reflecting the need to speak up when freedom of religion faces unwarranted constriction, CIJA intervened with the Quebec Soccer Federation and with the Quebec and federal Ministers of Sport and FIFA, calling for a reversal of the decision.
This episode had implications reaching far beyond the relatively small segment directly affected, bringing to the fore the issue of what constitutes “reasonable accommodation” of religious practices. From the Jewish community’s perspective, it marked an opportunity to raise our communal voice on an issue with which we have traditionally been engaged.
In further expression of this commitment to human rights advocacy, CIJA also endorsed Private Member’s Bill C-279: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity). This bill would have provided members of the transgendered community enhanced legal protection equal to that received by other groups, such as the Jewish community, victimized by hate crimes and violence.
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, and CIJA advocated accordingly for gender identity to be included as an “aggravating circumstance” in the Criminal Code.
Point to Consider:
- Canada’s Jewish community has a proud tradition of standing up for religious freedom and against hate-motivated crime and discrimination. Our community has long been at the forefront of efforts to secure these principles in Canadian law for all Canadians.
[feature_text]Objective: The next government should continue to stand up for religious freedom and protection from hatred for vulnerable groups, including the Jewish community. We encourage the next parliament to quickly pass legislation comparable to Bill C-279 to ensure these principles are reflected more fully in law.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Accountability for War Crimes, Genocide, Torture and Crimes Against Humanity”]
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 rescind immunity for states that perpetrate these heinous crimes, allowing them to be sued in Canadian courts. The aims of this initiative are noble and just, championing a cause the Jewish community vigorously supports. However, as previously constructed, the legislation requires significant changes to garner our endorsement.
Law is increasingly used as a tool to delegitimize Israel, a phenomenon known as lawfare. In lawfare cases, the judicial process is exploited resulting in Israel being attacked in the courts, even where there is no merit to the suit and little chance of winning the case. The purpose is to isolate Israel and to drain Israel and its supporters of financial resources and energy. The proposed legislative initiative fails to ensure it is not abused for these purposes, whether against Israel or other Canadian allies such as the United States.
This can be rectified with either a requirement for sign-off from the Attorney General to waive state immunity on a case-by-case basis, a specific country listing mechanism similar to the one in place for the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, or a provision maintaining state immunity for countries with which Canada has a legal extradition treaty. Additionally, the legislation should require a real and substantial connection to Canada to prevent “forum shopping”. In the Bil’in lawfare case in Quebec courts, even though the court rejected the plaintiff’s case, ruling that Quebec was not an appropriate forum, the hearings and appeals advanced an anti-Israel agenda.
Lastly, there must be a provision regulating the execution of foreign judgments in Canada. This legislation must first and foremost enable Canadians access to justice, ensuring state assets are not paid out to foreign plaintiffs, leaving nothing for Canadian victims to collect.
Points to Consider:
- Canadian victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture deserve access to justice through Canadian courts.
- Canadian law must be safeguarded from lawfare, an insidious publicity stunt designed to delegitimize Israel with spurious, drawn-out lawsuits.
[feature_text]Objective: If sufficient safeguards are included to prevent abuse and lawfare, the next government should consider passing legislation to suspend state immunity for perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture.[/feature_text]
Citizenship and Immigration
[accordion button=”Protecting Canadian Citizenship”]
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. Despite the dark era of Canada’s “none is too many” immigration and refugee policy for Jews, we have come here from all corners of the world over the last 200-plus years and contribute positively to the Canadian story, like so many other groups with whom we join in appreciating the extraordinary opportunity and privilege of being Canadian.
CIJA testified in the House of Commons supporting C-24 for a number of reasons, including the fact that it goes a long way toward preventing the importation of antisemitic views which, though marginalized in Canada, are unfortunately still prevalent in many parts of the world. It also eliminates the Cabinet’s ability to overrule a court determination to remove someone who misrepresented their involvement in heinous crimes, which happened with Nazi war criminals, and consolidates the process to ensure these criminals can be removed within a reasonable timeframe. Additionally, C-24 permits the revocation of citizenship for dual-nationals convicted of treason, espionage, terrorism, or fighting against the Canadian Forces, similar to measures in countries such as the United Kingdom and France.
CIJA suggested amendments to explicitly codify safeguards that would ensure fair implementation of revocation provisions, including a two-stage evaluation, to determine: (1) that a foreign terrorism offence is equivalent to a Canadian one; and, and (2) to ensure an accused is subject to a fair and impartial judicial process, as a requirement for revoking citizenship. 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 they should be subject to the same consequence for committing them while brandishing a Canadian passport.
Points to Consider:
- C-24 addressed some key problems with Canada’s citizenship process, particularly with regard to those who abuse the core responsibilities and values that underpin it.
- Revocation of citizenship, in compliance with the UN conventions on preventing statelessness, is a reasonable consequence for offences that are inherently actions against the institution of citizenship and the state itself.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to update the Citizenship Act to include war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as grounds for revoking citizenship and to include additional safeguards to codify a fair revocation process.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Ensuring a Fair and Efficient Refugee System”]
On June 28, 2012, Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, became law in an attempt to ameliorate a record backlog of unprocessed refugee claims and particularly high processing costs for refugee applicants from the EU. These deficiencies left refugee claimants in limbo, unable to restart their lives and fully enter Canadian society.
The changes instituted by C-31 attracted a great deal of attention within the Jewish community. Canada has provided a welcoming home for thousands of Jewish immigrants since the 1760s, who have become an integral part of the fabric of Canadian life. However, our community remembers with sorrow the prejudicial immigration policy in place through the 1930s and 40s that prevented refugees fleeing the Holocaust from finding safety on Canadian shores. This immigrant experience compels the Jewish community to take a keen interest in ensuring Canada’s immigration system remains fair, just and effective.
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 system’s generosity.
CIJA recommended three nuanced but significant improvements for consideration. First, clear provisions are required for how a designated country of origin (DCO) is removed from the DCO list if and when the situation in that country merits 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. Furthermore, once irregular arrival claimants’ identities 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 be subject to a five-year waiting period before they can sponsor family members to join them.
Point to Consider
- Jewish Canadians remain vigilantly mindful of the need to help desperate refugees find safety on our shores, and much has improved in this regard over the last 65 years. Had the current system, however imperfect, been in place during the 1930s and 1940s, many more Jews could have been saved from the horrors of the Holocaust.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to implement CIJA’s suggested improvements to the Canadian refugee policy.[/feature_text]
Combating Antisemitism and Protecting Jewish Living
[accordion button=”Protecting Jewish Schools and Community Centres”]
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.
According to the report, 75% of the hate crimes targeting Jews fell under the legal category of “mischief”, defined in the Criminal Code as follows:
430. (1) Every one commits mischief who willfully
(a) destroys or damages property;
(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.
Under the current law, hate- or bias-motivated mischief targeting a religious institution, such as a synagogue, is a specific crime with serious penalties. However, this designation does not extend to other institutions like schools and community centres.
CIJA has been advocating for legislative changes to address this shortfall. The most recent iteration of this initiative was a Private Member’s Bill, 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 mischief” motivated by bias, prejudice or hate targeting educational and other community institutions. This would effectively extend the criminal penalties in place for targeting synagogues to other community facilities.
Points to Consider:
- Hate-fueled criminals do not distinguish between synagogues and community centres. Neither should the law.
- The Criminal Code should be amended to include a specific offence and specific penalties for those who perpetrate hate crimes against Jewish community institutions.
[feature_text]Objective: We urge the next government to commit in its Speech from the Throne to introduce and quickly pass legislation similar to C-510, extending the hate crime provisions already in place for synagogues to schools and community centres.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Protecting Canadians from Hate Speech”]
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, particularly in the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial. Unfortunately, section 13 was used increasingly to stifle valid criticism and chill legitimate expression, and it became a divisive issue within the Jewish community.
After a series of town hall meetings to elicit feedback, CIJA called for hate speech to be addressed either through a more robustly applied Criminal Code or through a substantially reformed Human Rights Act, addressing section 13’s widely recognized deficiencies.
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 s/he did not regard hate speech as a significant problem.” With the repeal of section 13, this deficiency must be corrected.
CIJA reached out to the RCMP and federal, provincial, and territorial justice ministers with specific recommendations to ensure a more active application of Criminal Code hate speech provisions, including enhanced public and police education on hate speech issues. To date, our recommendations have not been adopted, leaving a gap in Canada’s hate speech protections.
Point to Consider:
- Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was deficient in safeguarding a proper balance between freedom of speech and protection from hate. However, the status quo ushered in by C-304 is equally imbalanced and further change is required.
[feature_text]Objective: The next government should enact legislation to replace the former section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act with a provision that strikes an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and protection from hate and includes specific provisions to prevent abuse. Alternatively, the next government should convene a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers to determine uniform guidelines and training programs to ensure more active use of Criminal Code hate speech provisions, coupled with a national education campaign about the dangers of hate propaganda.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Ensuring Affordable Access to Kosher Products”]
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, preventing a substantial price increase for consumers across Canada that would have impacted families, caterers, and restaurants. CIJA also successfully lobbied to prevent the Canadian Food Inspection Agency from introducing uniform ‘stun’ regulations that would prevent kosher slaughter. The proposed regulatory changes were abandoned, averting major price increases and supply issues that would have accompanied the end of domestic kosher meat production.
In May 2013, Ontario’s only kosher chicken processor ceased operation. A Montreal supplier has met substantial demand throughout Ontario and Manitoba. However, decreased and unsteady quality issues, variety of product and supply, and increased delivery distances have led to an escalation in the costs borne by consumers. For many families, this is a basic pocketbook issue. A permanent remedy must be found to restore stability to the supply of kosher chicken, enhancing accessibility and affordability for consumers.
CIJA is working to facilitate a solution based on a partnership between the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, the Kashruth Council of Ontario (COR), and interests in the private sector with experience in kosher meat products. Our particular focus is on navigating the regulatory challenges and serving as a liaison with appropriate federal government officials, who have been keen to resolve this situation.
The Government of Canada scheduled a ministerial roundtable with concerned stakeholders to examine the issue in depth and consider effective solutions. Unfortunately, this opportunity had to be postponed as a result of the federal election.
Points to Consider:
- Affordable access to kosher products is a fundamental aspect of Jewish life in Canada, affecting individuals, families, institutions and communities.
- Canadian officials have been exceptionally responsive, but the Jewish experience in other countries indicates a need for our constant and attentive engagement.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to remain vigilant in ensuring affordable access to kosher products in Canada and to continue working with all stakeholders to resolve the kosher chicken issue quickly and with minimal administrative obstacles.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Maintaining Canadian Pressure on Iran”]
The Government of Canada has exercised the full weight of Canadian diplomacy 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.
In addition to UN-mandated sanctions, Canada has also imposed independent sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act, which bar all imports from and exports to Iran and isolate 613 entities and individuals associated with Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile and terrorism activities. The government listed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force as a terrorist entity in 2012, isolating an organization that has had direct involvement in attacks on Jewish community targets. Canada also leads an annual resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran at the UN General Assembly, first initiated in 2002, ensuring the horrific plight of the Iranian people remains on the global agenda.
Canada has had full diplomatic relations with Iran for just six of the last 35 years. Ties were severed for a decade after the Islamic Revolution. Embassies reopened in 1990 but, in 1996, Canada instituted a “Controlled Engagement Policy.” The relationship continued to degrade steadily, particularly after the 2003 murder of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi by Iranian officials. By 2007, Canada and Iran were no longer exchanging ambassadors and, in September 2012, Canada closed its embassy, recalled all diplomats from Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa. The government simultaneously listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, opening the regime to lawsuits by Canadian victims, and enabling Canadian courts to order the freezing of Iranian assets in Canada.
All major federal political parties have voiced concerns regarding Iran’s ongoing abuses and have expressed skepticism regarding Iranian compliance with the recent nuclear deal.
Point to Consider:
- Iran has a long record of manipulating diplomatic processes. The nuclear deal depends on Iran’s actions, not just its words.
- Pressure brought Iran to the table, and continuing pressure is the best way to ensure compliance.
[feature_text]Objective: Canada should ensure that relieving pressure on Iran is strictly contingent on tangible and significant Iranian progress in fulfilling its nuclear, terrorism and human rights obligations. We hope that Canada’s position will continue to reflect an appreciation of the legitimate security concerns of the people of Israel in the face of Iran’s genocidal threats.
[accordion button=”Securing Restitution for Canadian Survivors”]
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. Poland, for example, has no restitution law for private real property that was confiscated in the Holocaust and later nationalized by the Communist regime. This situation is particularly concerning given that, of the several hundred thousand survivors around the world today, tens of thousands live in poverty.
In June 2015, CIJA mobilized a delegation of Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors, affiliated with Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, to advocate for restitution for Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe. Working in concert with the World Jewish Restitution Organization, CIJA’s delegation met with diplomatic representatives from the European Union, Romania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. CIJA later engaged the ambassadors of Poland and Bulgaria as well.
This ongoing campaign is based on the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, which was approved by 46 countries (including Canada) and calls for just and fair solutions regarding the status of private, communal and heirless property stolen from Jews during World War II. It specifically calls for relevant governments to “make every effort to provide for the restitution of former Jewish communal and religious property,” and it advocates for expeditious compensation for those who lost property during the Holocaust and their heirs.
Accordingly, in response to CIJA’s request, the Government of Canada directed Canadian diplomats in relevant countries to raise the restitution issue with implicated governments in early 2015. Strong statements of support from all three major federal parties on this issue affirm and underscore that Canada’s call for restitution is backed by a non-partisan consensus.
Points to Consider:
- Approximately 40,000 Holocaust survivors built new lives in Canada. Too many of those still alive live in poverty. Securing restitution for them and their families is a priority for Canada, which has played a leading role in this global effort.
[feature_text]Objective: The next government should continue to direct Canadian diplomats to forcefully encourage their European counterparts to pass laws that will provide restitution and justice for the victims of the Holocaust.[/feature_text]
Keeping the Jewish Community Safe
[accordion button=”Preventing Terrorism”]
Terrorism imperils the lives of millions around the world. The brutal violence perpetrated by groups such as ISIL, Hezbollah, Hamas and Boko Haram concerns all Canadians and merits a concerted response from our government. Canada has long played a leading role in confronting this threat, whether by securing the financial isolation of listed terrorist entities at home, or contributing to military efforts abroad.
Despite these efforts, terrorism continues to pose a threat to Canadians, recently manifest in appalling attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and other failed attempts intercepted by police across the country. While this violence imperils all Canadians, the Jewish community is particularly vulnerable.
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 Montreal, Canada. There is significant fear that such attacks are possible elsewhere in the country. The terrorists who attempted to destroy a VIA Rail train and the BC Legislature made clear their intention to target Jews and, 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 much at stake in the functionality of Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation, which is the product of the responsiveness of successive governments to the terrorist threat. Accordingly, CIJA testified before a House of Commons committee in favour of Bill C-51: Antiterrorism Act 2015 and has supported other initiatives, such as the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and Canada’s comprehensive list of proscribed terrorist entities.
Points to Consider:
- C-51 contained important measures to help counter radicalization and prevent terrorist attacks.
- CIJA provided concrete, innovative proposals for how oversight and privacy concerns could be better addressed, one of which, increased budgetary resources for the Security Intelligence Committee, was implemented.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to consider implementing CIJA’s recommendations for Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation and to maintain existing measures, including the listing of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and the designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist entities.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Modernizing the Security Infrastructure Program”]
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. It covers 50% of the costs for approved projects, to a maximum of $100,000, to protect community members and facilities.
Despite SIP’s success, there are a number of areas where it could be improved. Unfortunately, the growing threat of terrorist violence targeting at-risk communities like ours necessitates additional resources. SIP funding for all at-risk groups is approximately $1 million annually for large cities like Toronto and Montreal. As a point of comparison, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced earlier this year that Britain’s Jewish community alone would receive £11 million (more than $22 million) to support its security infrastructure.
Additionally, current SIP approval criteria place greater weight on applications from institutions that can demonstrate a history of hate activity targeting their location or area. These criteria make it difficult for communities to secure necessary funding before an attack takes place, or in a location where a new community is just beginning to grow.
Lastly, the SIP as currently conceived 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.
Points to Consider
- The SIP has been a continuing success, providing significant support to Jewish communities across Canada, helping them to ensure the security of their members and facilities.
- Unfortunately, Jewish communities around the world, including in Canada, face a growing terrorist threat. Modifications are required to maximize the effectiveness of the SIP and to keep our communities safe.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to update the SIP to increase the amount of support available and amend the approval criteria to ensure it comprehensively reflects the circumstances and needs of at-risk communities.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Supporting Ethno-Cultural Social Services”]
CIJA has worked closely with organizations in other ethno-cultural communities in a research project to evaluate the added value of services delivered by our niche 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.
There are many areas included under the social services umbrella with a federal component, including immigrant settlement, employment and seniors. Many Jewish community social service agencies receive federal funding for their important work in these and other crucial areas.
The 2005 report “Seniors on the Margins,” produced by the federally mandated National Advisory Council on Aging, specifically examined the importance of culturally relevant care for seniors. The report recommended greater representation and inclusion of ethno-cultural communities in national planning, including policy and program development.
These conclusions are applicable across the broad range of social service activities under federal jurisdiction. Ensuring input from ethno-cultural social service agencies in early stages of federal planning is crucial for maximizing the impact of their work and ensuring greater coordination with larger mainstream providers.
Point to Consider:
- The most effective way to deliver social services to Jewish Canadians is through Jewish social service agencies, which have superior access and better outcomes than other providers.
- Providing ethno-cultural social service agencies a key role in federal planning and delivery of social services is crucial for maximizing positive outcomes.
[feature_text]Objective: We urge the next government to prioritize the inclusion of ethno-cultural providers across the broad range of federal social service activities, ensuring significant ethno-cultural representation in planning, funding and delivery of social services in communities across Canada.[/feature_text]
[accordion button=”Ensuring Access to Low-Cost Housing”]
Government-subsidized housing, developed often in cooperation with the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, assists people otherwise unable to afford adequate housing. This low-cost housing is mainly funded through agreements between the federal government and provincial or territorial counterparts, with a $1.7 billion annual federal contribution.
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 of 2010, there were approximately 613,500 units receiving these long-term subsidies, but this number has begun to decrease steadily. As the terms of these mortgages expire, so do the rent subsidies. This puts increasing numbers of vulnerable Canadians in a position where they cannot afford housing.
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, that can be used to provide for rent subsidies, maintenance or building costs for new units or existing properties where mortgage terms have expired. Despite this significant contribution, affordable housing remains precarious for many residing in properties past or approaching the end of their mortgage term.
This situation impacts Jewish Canadians across the country. Securing affordable housing is particularly imperative for young families living below the poverty line or on low income. 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 (24,310) of Jewish poor live in Toronto, but the highest incidence of poverty (20%) occurs in Montreal. Nearly one in every six Jewish seniors in Canada lives below the poverty line.
Point to consider:
- Nearly 15% of Jewish Canadians live in poverty, with many relying on government-subsidized housing.
[feature_text]Objective: We encourage the next government to extend long-term funding for existing affordable housing projects as previous funding agreements expire. We also urge the next government to consider expanding federal support for new social housing units to ensure sustainable long-term access for vulnerable Canadians.[/feature_text]
Suggested questions for Candidates
What Can You Do?
Successful advocacy relies on active, engaged and informed grassroots. You can have an impact by following one or more of the following steps:
- Read through the issues outlined in this book and reflect on why they are important to Canadians, the Jewish community and to you
- Let us know that you want to be active
- Speak to your friends about the issues and why they are important
- Contact your local candidates and tell them what issues matter to you
- Contact the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) to join a federal party, volunteer for a campaign, or support a local candidate
- Participate in CIJA — and Federation — organized pre-election events
- On October 19th, don’t vote alone – help an elderly family member or neighbour get to the polls, encourage a first-time voter to exercise his or her democratic right, or organize a synagogue shuttle to the polls
[feature_text]Are you doing something unique to get involved in this year’s election? Do you have an innovative idea for how members of the Jewish community can become more engaged in Canadian democracy? Email UsTweet Us[/feature_text]