Criminalization of Holocaust Denial: A Major New Tool in Fighting Antisemitism in Canada
Ottawa, ON – As part of Bill C-19, the Budget Implementation Act, the federal government has taken a stand against antisemitism in Canada by criminalizing Holocaust denial. This is an important development for Canadians, including the Jewish community who, spearheaded by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, have long been advocating for this change to the criminal code. The cross-party support for criminalizing Holocaust denial demonstrates the understanding among all parties that antisemitism is an insidious threat, and more tools are needed to fight it.
Antisemitic hate crimes, the use of symbols of hate, and incidents of Holocaust denial and distortion are on the rise in Canada. Making Holocaust denial a criminal offence will raise public awareness of these dangers and provide the necessary legal tools to prosecute those who peddle this pernicious form of antisemitism.
“Denying the Holocaust is a reliable predictor of radicalization and an indication that antisemitism is on the rise,” said Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, Chair of the National Board of Directors of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “Rising antisemitism should be a concern for all Canadians because we know that what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews. When antisemitism is allowed to flourish, it tears at the fabric of society to the detriment of all citizens.”
Countries in Europe, including France and Germany, have either enacted Holocaust denial laws or have banned elements associated with Nazism, such as the display of Nazi symbols. The purposes of those laws are to slow the spread of antisemitism and reduce violence against Jewish communities. While Canada remains one of the best countries in the world in which to be Jewish, Canadian Jews are not immune to this threat.
Originally proposed by MP Kevin Waugh in Bill C-250, the criminalization of Holocaust denial will be a significant tool to fight antisemitism.
“We are grateful for MP Waugh’s leadership on this issue. His determination to put this issue on the agenda spurred action and led to the inclusion of the Bill directly into the budget. We thank all MPs who spoke to this legislation and who, through cross-party collaboration, made the criminalization of Holocaust denial a reality,” said Adelson-Marcovitz.
“Though criminalizing Holocaust denial in Canada is a new and effective tool to combat this dangerous form of hate, it is only one step in the fight against antisemitism,” added Richard Marceau, Vice-President of External Affairs and General Counsel, CIJA.
“Education is critical to combating hate and antisemitism. Governments at all levels must also focus on Holocaust education, remembrance, and research to stem the tide of disinformation and overt hate that threatens the Jewish community and other vulnerable minorities.”
CIJA advocates for the following additional strategies to combat antisemitism:
- Create an effective online hate strategy that would establish an independent regulatory regime and compel social media companies to be frontline first responders to hate on their platforms.
- Support the creation of a Community Security Trust, based on the UK model, to complement the existing Security Infrastructure Program.
- Establish a community institution security rebate to offset part of the financial costs incurred by communities at risk.
- Enhance training for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement in hate crimes to ensure they recognize and address them effectively.
- Increase resources to educate Canadians about the Holocaust and antisemitism.
For 2020 (the latest data available), Statistics Canada found police-reported hate crimes against Jewish people accounted for the highest number of religious-based hate crimes in Canada (62 percent); there were 321 incidents, a five-percent increase, meaning that, on average, an antisemitic hate crime was reported in Canada nearly every day. For perspective, Jews are only one percent of the Canadian population.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations across Canada. CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Jewish life in Canada through advocacy and to advance the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.
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