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City of Richmond in British Columbia, Canada, adopts IHRA definition

Palestinian activists voiced their opposition to its usage, saying that it would shut down their attempts to criticize Israel.

The fountains at Richmond City Hall in British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Robert Ashworth via Wikimedia Commons.
The fountains at Richmond City Hall in British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Robert Ashworth via Wikimedia Commons.

The city of Richmond in British Columbia, Canada, approved by a vote of 6-3 the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IRHA) working definition of antisemitism.

The measure was a part of a broader adoption by the city council of more than a dozen definitions of racism and discrimination, as put forward by Canada’s anti-racism initiatives.

“Today, Mayor [Malcolm] Brodie and Richmond  City Council sent a strong message that antisemitism or hate in any form has no place in society,” Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, said in a press release. “The rise of antisemitic hate crimes across the country has made the need to counter them urgent. No one should live in fear because of who they are. The IHRA definition will help the people of Richmond identify antisemitism in all its manifestations so that they can help put a stop to it and protect the values of diversity, equality and community that we cherish.”

B’nai Brith Canada’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, issued in April 2022, found that while Jews comprise just 1.25% of the country’s population, they were the target of more than 60% of all hate-crimes incidents against a religious minority. In British Columbia alone, 409 acts of antisemitic in 2021 an increase of more than 110% from 2020.

Palestinian activists at the city council meeting, however, voiced their opposition to the usage of the IHRA definition, saying that it would shut down their attempts to criticize Israel, according to a report in a local newspaper.

The IHRA definition has been adopted by the Canadian government itself, as well as provinces and cities such as Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Worldwide, more than 1,100 entities have adopted it. 

“The City of Richmond’s commitment and leadership in combating hate and discrimination is an example to follow,” Nico Slobinsky, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ senior director for the Pacific region, said in a press release. “To combat hate effectively, we must be able to define it. By adopting the definitions of prejudice set out in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, which includes IHRA, Richmond City Council demonstrates the importance it places in understanding how communities experience hate.”

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