Hamilton, Ont., Mayor Fred Eisenberger announced on March 31 that the city was moving to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
In an interview, Eisenberger said he has adopted the definition as a working tool for his office and hopes it will become city policy within a month. He took the action, he said, because he feels defining a problem is the first step in solving it.“
This is a clear statement on my part to decry anti-Semitism in our community,” he said. “Whenever we acknowledge any kind of hate or discrimination in our community we are putting a stamp on what is and is not acceptable in our community.“
This will help and support our Jewish community and make clear what is acceptable in Hamilton,” he added.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was endorsed in 2016 by 30 countries. It is also supported by the European Union and the United Nations as well as the governments of Canada and Ontario.
While it is strongly supported by Jewish community institutions and organizations, the definition has drawn criticism from opponents who argue its 11 illustrative examples class criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic.
The mayor’s move was immediately praised by the Hamilton Jewish Federation and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).“
Today, Mayor Eisenberger sent a clear message to hatemongers in our city: there is no room for anti-Semitism in Hamilton,” Federation CEO Gustavo Rymberg said in a news release. “We are pleased to see Hamilton, one of the largest cities in Canada, join a growing list of municipalities across the country and around the world in adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a vital tool in the ongoing fight against hatred and discrimination targeting Jews.“
At a time of rising hate, the IHRA definition provides a framework that can help guide civil society and government alike in understanding contemporary forms of anti-Semitism, such as Holocaust denial.”
Judy Zelikovitz, CIJA’s vice-president for University and Local Partner Services, said a clear definition of anti-Semitism is a critical step to protecting the Jewish community.“
Jewish Canadians are among the top minority groups most targeted by hate crime. We cannot protect our society from contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism if we are unable to properly identify them,” she said in a news release. “By adopting the IHRA definition, the City of Hamilton has demonstrated a strong commitment to pushing back against rising anti-Semitism and hate.
”Pushing back against hate and anti-Semitism has become important to Hamilton which, in 2018, was dubbed the hate crime capital of Canada with almost 100 reported hate crimes and incidents.Statistics Canada data for 2019 show 1,946 criminal incidents in Canada motivated by hate. That’s an increase of 7 per cent, or 129 more incidents, over 2018. In 2017, the number of hate crimes increased markedly by 47 per cent and has remained at comparable levels in 2018 and 2019.
The data also shows a decline in the number of hate crimes motivated by religion – decreasing from 657 to 608 incidents, a decline of 7 per cent. Jews remained the most targeted group in the country, although the number of reported incidents fell from 372 incidents to 296, a drop of 20 per cent.
In the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area, which includes the Town of Grimsby and City of Burlington, StatsCan reported the number of incidents fell to 90 in 2019 from 96 in the previous year. The area has a population of 747,545 people and is covered by the Hamilton, Halton and Niagara police services.
The data shows almost half of all reported incidents targeting religion are aimed at Jews. That’s down from the 2018 numbers but is still the highest in the country.
The annual hate crime report of the Hamilton police shows a decline of more the 26 per cent in 2019 from the year before. Religion was the target in 42 of those cases with 28 of them targeting Jews. Only eight of the reports were classed as crimes such as assault. The rest were mischief events such as graffiti.