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CIJA Advocates for Social Justice and Poverty Reduction

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 through strategic, targeted advocacy to advance the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.

Repairing the world and helping those in need are core Jewish values. CIJA is doing a lot of work on social justice, including ensuring access to low-cost housing in Canada and working to secure support for social services across the country. Read about our other social justice priorities below. Engage with us here.

Social justice is one component of CIJA’s priorities. See the full list here.

[accordion button=”Ensuring access to affordable housing”]

Affordable HousingCIJA 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 financing 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 previous federal government’s Investment in Affordable Housing represented a significant step toward addressing this problem, including a 2013 allocation of $1.25B over five years, matched and administered by the provinces. These funds were allocated to cover rent subsidies, maintenance, building costs for new units, or existing properties where mortgage terms had expired. Despite this significant contribution, affordable housing remains precarious for many residents of properties past or approaching the end of their mortgage term.

As the new government sets its agenda for its first year in office, CIJA is encouraged by Liberal campaign pledges regarding affordable housing and looks forward to working with other faith, ethnic, and civil society organizations to advance it as a top priority.

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 (24,310) of Jewish poor live in Toronto, but the highest incidence (20%) of poverty occurs in Montreal. Nearly one in every six Jewish seniors in Canada is living below the poverty line.

In Quebec, CIJA has advocated for the increase of funding to be contributed by the government to AccèsLogis, a financial aid program that aims to support the creation of new public and community housing for low and modest income households or for tenants with special needs.

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[accordion button=”Securing restitution for Canadian Holocaust Survivors”]

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 9.24.43 AMInnumerable 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 woefully inadequate or even non-existent. This situation is especially 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.

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[accordion button=”Building support for Jewish community social services agencies”]

Physician-Assisted DyingIn partnership with organizations in other ethno-cultural communities, CIJA undertook research on the added value of ethnic- or community-specific social service providers in Ontario, such as Jewish Family and Child and other Federation social service agencies. The results demonstrated quantitative and qualitative value for clients who receive care through culturally- and religiously-sensitive social service agencies. CIJA is committed to improving 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 and to ensure Jewish Canadians receive appropriate care.

Last year in Quebec during a systematic reform affecting health and social service institutions, CIJA led the charge to ensure that the historic, religious and cultural identity of Jewish institutions was preserved. CIJA continues to act to safeguard the links between the Jewish community and the health and social service institutions it founded.

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[accordion button=”Ensuring equality in Canadian society”]

social_justiceThe 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 for other vulnerable groups facing challenges of marginalization or discrimination.

In keeping with this legacy, CIJA participates on the steering committee of Trans Equality Canada, a national coalition seeking to provide members of the transgendered community enhanced legal protection equal to that received by other groups victimized by discrimination, 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. The Jewish 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.

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As a member of the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, CIJA is working at the federal and provincial levels of government to protect Canadians from discrimination based on the results of genetic testing.  Canada is the only G7 country with no specific protections in place, putting all Canadians at risk and potentially forcing a choice between health and livelihood. Given the disproportionate prevalence of genetic markers among some Jews, the Jewish community is particularly susceptible to genetic discrimination; however CIJA’s advocacy for this protection will apply equally to all Canadians.

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[accordion button=”Solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities”]

Truth and reconciliationIn Canada’s history, the relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people has been marked by trauma and the denial of dignity. CIJA believes it is important for all Canadians to understand and recognize the issues faced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and our collective role in shaping a better future for all. CIJA engaged over several years with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), through educational programming support in Vancouver, participation on the steering committee for the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, organization of an inter-generational dialogue between Holocaust Survivors and Residential School survivors, an expression of reconciliation at the final TRC program in Ottawa, and participation of a Jewish delegation at the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa.

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[accordion button=”Strengthening partnerships with other faith, ethnic and cultural communities”]

CIJA has partnered and worked with a wide range of partners in different ethnic, cultural, and faith based communities on a variety of issues. Participation in interfaith and interethnic tables such as the Canadian Interfaith Conversation, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, and Christian Jewish Dialogues across the country allow CIJA to build bridges, foster understanding, and find opportunities for shared commitments to issues and causes with other communities.  In partnership with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, CIJA has recently launched a multi-year dialogue program, which includes a commitment to work together on shared issues. CIJA has provided advocacy training and support to small and emerging community organizations to help them better navigate challenges in their own respective communities.

CIJA provides support and guidance to an organization working with immigrant women from African, European, Middle Eastern and other countries to further social and job market integration and to reduce poverty. CIJA works with a multi-ethnic media press agency bringing together communities of all backgrounds for discourse and dialogue, and it is working with the Burundi community in Montreal and nation-wide to raise awareness as they cope with the crisis facing their country.

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