Motion defining anti-Semitism blocked by Quebec opposition party


A National Assembly motion defining anti-Semitism was blocked by the left-wing separatist Québec Solidaire (QS) on June 4.

QS, the second opposition with 10 seats, withheld the unanimous consent required for a motion to proceed.

The motion denounced “the violence, threats and aggression experienced by the Quebec Jewish community…in the last weeks in our cities and on social media” and alluded to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

Ten days earlier with the three other parties and independent MNAs, QS jointly tabled another motion on anti-Semitism that was unanimously adopted. Like this latest motion, it condemned the recent targeting of Jews and urged a “healthy and democratic debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The difference is the latest motion goes further, stating that the legislature “joins the renewed international effort to combat anti-Semitism.”  Without referring to it explicitly, it echoes the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by about 35 countries, including Canada.

The non-binding motion would have had the legislature adopt “the definition of anti-Semitism as being a certain perception of Jews that may be expressed under the form of hatred towards Jews,” while “reiterat(ing) that to criticize or peacefully demonstrate against the position of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not in itself anti-Semitism.”

Environment Minister Benoit Charette, who is responsible for combating racism, blasted QS on Twitter.

“I am appalled and troubled by the refusal of QS to adopt this motion,” he tweeted. “I look for the word or the comma that poses a problem. I invite QS to revisit its vision of the fight against racism. It cannot be as selective as it seems to be.”

He refers to Switzerland having adopted the IHRA definition on the same day.

QS formally endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel in 2009.

Charette with Liberal David Birnbaum, the sole Jewish MNA, were the lead presenters of the successful May 26 motion. The June 4 motion was tabled by the Parti Québécois’s Méganne Perry Mélançon and independents Harold LeBel, Guy Ouellette, and Louis-Charles Thouin.

The motion’s failure was applauded by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, and the Canadian Palestine Foundation of Quebec. They hail QS as the only party in the National Assembly to “take a firm position both against anti-Semitism and against the silencing of Palestinian voices.”

IJV spokesperson Aaron Lakoff accused the Coalition Avenir Québec government of “blatant hypocrisy” because it denies Islamophobia and systemic racism, and championed Bill 21, which infringes on the rights of Jews and other religious minorities.  “Yet it is willing to bend to the pressure of the pro-Israel lobby in adopting the IHRA definition,” he stated.

At the June 14 Montreal city council meeting, the opposition Ensemble Montréal is expected to bring forward a motion urging Mayor Valérie Plante to make a more forceful denunciation of anti-Semitism and back it with concrete action.

In a Twitter post, Plante did immediately denounce the physical and verbal assault on pro-Israel demonstrators that occurred May 16, but that is insufficient, according to Ensemble Montréal interim leader Lionel Perez.

Perez has led the effort to get Montreal to adopt the IHRA definition. At his first attempt in January 2020, Plante deferred the matter for further study by a standing committee. When her administration failed to act by the time the issue came up again this March, Federation CJA sharply rebuked Plante for reneging on what it said was a commitment to Jewish leaders going back to a February 2020 meeting.

Perez initiated the IHRA motion adopted by his Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce borough council in January, the first of Montreal’s 19 boroughs to do so.

Ensemble Montréal is the party of former mayor Denis Coderre, who is seeking to unseat Plante in the November municipal election.

At the virtual April city council meeting, a member of the public, identified as Mr. Klein, asked why Plante is “appeasing  radical elements in your party” by not adopting the definition.

Cathy Wong, the executive committee member responsible for anti-racism, answered that the definition has “prompted a lot of questions from civil society organizations, as well as citizens” and that the city’s presidency committee was continuing to study the matter.

“We have received a lot of documentation and opinions, and are still exchanging with partners who wish to share their views… (in order) to take an informed decision we must rally as many people as possible, especially on such an important subject as anti-Semitism, which is everybody’s business,” Wong said.

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