Concerned over events in Charlottesville, Va., the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), along with more than 50 community groups, issued a declaration calling on all levels of government to boost measures to address hate crimes.
The joint declaration was endorsed by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, African-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, LGBTQ and student organizations.
It states that, “All forms of hate are inextricably linked and must be opposed with legal and non-violent means by all people of good will.
“An attack against any minority is nothing less than an assault on Canada’s democratic values and a threat to our entire society.”
The group recommended Canadian governments adopt several policy positions to deal with the problem, including: “Establishing uniform guidelines for the collection and publication of hate crime and hate incident data; creating training programs for public, police and prosecutors that allow for more consistent and effective enforcement of hate speech laws; the creation of dedicated hate crime units for all sizable police agencies; and new measures to monitor and counter the spread of hate propaganda.”
“We are humbled by the strong support for this declaration we have received from a diverse range of allies,” said CIJA chief executive Shimon Fogel.
“At this challenging time, those of us who work in human rights and anti-discrimination advocacy must unite and raise our voices against those who peddle hate. As we saw in Charlottesville, anti-Semitism goes hand-in-hand with white supremacy and other forms of bigotry. While we know the vast majority of Canadians reject these toxic ideologies, recent events remind us to be vigilant and assertive in countering hate movements,” Fogel added.
Ariella Kimmel, senior manager of partnerships for CIJA, said community groups that were approached to sign on to the declaration were “positive about the initiative.”
Like the Jewish community, they too are concerned by hate crimes directed at minorities and they support measures that would toughen hate crimes legislation and expand its application, she said.
Morgan Manzer, chair of Halifax Pride, which signed on to the declaration, said he was “deeply affected by Charlottesville. As a person of colour myself, to see that level of hatred – Canada is not immune to that.”
The declaration’s sponsors say they “won’t tolerate the sort of actions or hate speech that people are promoting,” Manzer added.
Manzer suggested that Halifax Pride’s participation in the declaration grew out of its partnership with the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC), which is affiliated with CIJA.
AJC sponsored a Shabbat dinner during the recent Pride festival. “We’ve started collaborating and seeing how our communities could work together,” Manzer said. “We have people in both communities.”
CIJA reached out to Pride Halifax following the Charlottesville incident and Pride Halifax responded because of its foundational belief that “an attack on one is an attack on all of us,” Manzer said.
While Pride Halifax, which promotes the LGBTQ community, is not an advocacy organization, “we hope to partner with CIJA, who do work on the ground, and to have these important conversations,” he added.
Kimmel said CIJA does not see the declaration as a one-off, but as something that is part of its long-term goal of building relationships with other communities.