motion may be presented to Montreal City Council to adopt the working
definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance
Alliance (IHRA) at its April 19 monthly meeting.
a motion had been expected at City Council's March 22-23 meeting. On
March 9, in anticipation of such a motion, close to 30 Montreal-based
anti-racist organizations sent an open letter to Mayor
Plante and Montreal City Council demanding that they take a stand in
opposition to the IHRA definition.
definition says "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which
may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical
manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish
individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions
and religious facilities." This is a spurious as well as narrow
definition. It is imbued with self-serving zionist notions,
including the supposition that only Jews are Semites. Furthermore, of
the 11 "examples" that the IHRA provides as guideline, seven refer to
criticism of the state of Israel.
Voices Canada has pointed out that "a similar motion to the one
proposed for Montreal City Council was withdrawn following widespread
grassroots opposition in January 2020."
It is instructive to revisit what
took place at Montreal City Hall
in January 2020 the first time the motion was presented and what
January 27, 2020, the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the
liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz by the Soviet Army, also known
as Holocaust Remembrance Day, Montreal
City Council met to discuss a motion to adopt the IHRA working
definition of anti-Semitism presented by Lionel Perez, head of the
official opposition and interim leader of Ensemble
Montréal (formerly Équipe Denis Coderre pour
Montréal), following Coderre's defeat in the 2017 municipal
election. A picket outside Montreal City Hall opposed the adoption of
definition, which included members of Palestinian and Jewish Unity
(PAJU), Independent Jewish Voices, the Communist Party of Canada
(Marxist-Leninist) and other progressive
Inside Montreal City Hall, three citizens
were chosen by roster to
ask questions about the motion. One identified herself as the daughter
of Soviet Jewish immigrants whose family
members "did and did not survive" the Holocaust, another as the
daughter of "survivors and refugees of the German government and state,
concentration camps and violence," and a third as
a member of Independent Jewish Voices.
of them noted that the IHRA working definition "actively
criminalizes Palestinians and pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist
organizations" and "obscures and deflects attention from the
very violent manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, while
white supremacist groups like Atalante and La Meute march in the
streets of Montreal and Quebec and are often
protected by the police and take their ideological positions from the
same ideologies that enabled the Holocaust." She asked when would the
city name the active agents of anti-Semitism as
white supremacist groups.
Another participant noted the importance of public discussion,
debate and criticism regarding the actions and policies of any state,
including Israel and wondered how public discussion
and protests against Israel would be ensured and Palestinian voices
heard if the IHRA definition was passed.
Perez responded that the definition had been worked on
for 12 years by about 30 countries, the UN, UNESCO and the European
Union. "We have every single major democratic country, including
Canada, that has adopted it and guess what? They have no concern in
fact about impeding freedom of speech." He added that although
criticism of Israel was fine, if "you start incorporating elements of
hate, when you use anti-Semitic tropes [elements of conspiracy], when
you start talking about subliminal messages, that's where hate enters."
response to a question about how to guarantee that people will
always have the right to label states -- whether it be Canada or Israel
-- as racist states if the definition is passed, he responded: "We can"
and "must rely on our institutions," and that "for us, this shows that
it is entirely legitimate and always an issue [...] of finding a
balance and in a free and democratic society, we can do that."
of the interveners asked, "Can we not have a larger conception
of anti-Semitism that sees this as a kind of hate that is not very
different from Islamophobia, or homophobia or all
other forms of hate because it targets all forms of hate and doesn't
The day after Perez tabled his motion, the City of Montreal
administration decided to refer it to committee for study, where it has
This year, again on January 27, the
occasion of Holocaust
Remembrance Day, at a special meeting of the
Montreal's West End, of which Perez is a member, the "Motion adopting
operational definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust
Remembrance (IHRA)" was passed.
Amongst the considerations contained in the motion, we find
2015, the City of Montreal created the Centre for the Prevention of
Radicalization Leading to Violence, the aim of
which is to prevent radicalization leading to violence and hateful
behaviour." Another is that "following the 2015 Montreal Roundtable
Discussions against anti-Semitism the Montreal Police
Service established a hate crimes unit in 2016 allowing it to more
effectively investigate reporting and complaints received regarding
hate incidents and crimes." We also read that "in November, 2020
Canada created the position of special envoy for the preservation of
the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism by
nominating Irwin Cotler to head the Canadian
government delegation at the IHRA." Still another consideration is that
"over recent years there has been an increase in anti-Semitic attacks
around the world and in Canada."
One of the motion's resolutions reads that "the Borough
Administration circulate the definition with services so that it is
used based on their respective needs." The motion adopting the
IHRA definition of anti-Semitism also resolves "that the
the City of Montreal administration and City Council adopt the
IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as soon as possible."
following day, a letter to the editor appeared in the Montreal
applauding Perez and the borough for adopting the IHRA definition.
Amongst other things, it said:
"We encourage other boroughs and the City of Montreal to follow suit."
It added: "We are working with the Quebec government to produce a
universal teachers' guide on the subject of
genocide, including the Holocaust." It said that the guide "will help
young people understand the meaning of and the ultimate consequences of
hatred so that they will recognize the warning
signs of genocide and prevent history from repeating itself." It was
signed by a member of "The Foundation for Genocide Education, Montreal."
Foundation's stated mission "is to collaborate with governments
to ensure that the history of genocide and the steps leading to it are
taught in high schools across Canada and the
partners include the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization
Leading to Violence as well as the Montreal Institute for
Genocide and Human Rights, which organized the visit to Concordia
University of the phony Ambassador to Venezuela in October 2019.
June 25, 2019, without prior consultation with Canadians or even
in the House of Commons, the Trudeau Liberal government adopted the
IHRA definition of anti-Semitism through
its "Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy
2019-2022." A year and a half later, Trudeau named Irwin Cotler
Canada's "Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust
Remembrance and Combatting Anti-Semitism." Cotler leads the Government
of Canada's delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance
It is important for people to
inform themselves on the matter, discuss
these issues with their colleagues, friends, neighbours and families
and go all out to block passage of the IHRA
working definition of anti-Semitism, whether at the municipal level or
within our educational institutions.
claims of fighting hate and intolerance, and defending
human rights are being used by the Canadian government to cover up the
fact that one of its main priorities has been
and continues to be the defence of Israeli Zionism, as well as the
criminalization of those defending the rights of Palestinians and
others. It must not pass!
City Council Proceedings, Monday, January 27, 2020, 7:00 pm
of Special Meeting of the
January 27, 2021, pages
to the Editor: Education is key to fighting hate," Montreal
Gazette, January 28, 2021.
The Foundation for Genocide
11. The following countries have adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism (as of February 2021):
Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic,
France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kosovo,
Lithuania. Luxembourg, Moldova, The Netherlands, North Macedonia,
Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United
This article was published in
Volume 51 Number 4 - April 4, 2021