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Vancouver council votes to adopt International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism

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Vancouver council adopts IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
WATCH: Vancouver council has voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism. The definition's been adopted by the B.C. government and is supported by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – Nov 17, 2022

Vancouver’s city council passed a motion to adopt an international definition of antisemitism in Wednesday’s meeting.

The council voted six to one in favour of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

The motion was first brought forward by Coun. Sarah Kirby-Young and was seconded by Coun. Mike Klassen.

“This is really about education, and education is really the most powerful tool that we have against hate. It’s more powerful than any punitive actions could be,” Kirby-Yung said.

The senior director of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs spoke at the council meeting in support of the motion.

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“Why IHRA? The IHRA non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism provides policymakers, law enforcement and community leaders with a tool to identify, understand and combat contemporary forms of antisemitism in public life,” said Nico Slobinsky, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ senior director.

“IHRA is the consensus definition of antisemitism that best reflects the living experience of Jews today.”

The IHRA’s definition describes antisemitism as “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.”

New Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim shared his thoughts on the adoption on social media.

“We are proud to stand with the Jewish community both in Vancouver and around the world,” he said.

“Antisemitism has no place in our city and today we take an important step towards a more inclusive and safe society for all.”

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However, the definition is not without resistance.

Coun. Christine Boyle spoke about her concerns with the definition.

“I do struggle with the divisiveness of this definition within Jewish communities,” she said in the council meeting.

“I don’t think it should be the basis on which we do our antisemitism work but I remain committed to that work, absolutely.”

The Independent Jewish Voices group has also opposed the definition publicly.

The group argues that the definition is used to shut down critiques against Israel, and is a toxic definition.

Independent Jewish Voices describes itself as a Canadian grassroots organization that opposes all forms of racism and advocates for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine.

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