A recap of the Jewish community boosts in Canada’s 2024 federal budget

The 2024 federal budget, announced in the House of Commons on April 16, included a significant increase in funding for projects that affect the Jewish community.

Overall, the budget contained about $250 million in support for the Jewish community, said Mackenzy Metcalfe, director of government and alumni relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“We’re gratified that the government was responsive to the concerns that we’ve been hearing and that we’ve been conveying and that many of the solutions that we’ve been advocating for were implemented—that’s not just for Jews, but for all communities that are at risk for hate crimes,” Metcalfe said in an interview with The CJN. “We’re grateful for the investment and believe that the government listened to Jews and the fear that they are feeling in Canada.”

Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center also welcomed the budget promises, highlighting the $273.6 million over six years that was committed to Canada’s Action Plan on Combatting Hate, which includes $26.8 million over four years to police colleges to increase training on hate crimes; $28 million over six years for support for victims of hate crimes and $1.5 million over five years for training for Crown prosecutors and the judiciary about hate crimes.

“For years, we have decried that so many of our police services lack the necessary training and resources to effectively combat rising hate crime. This new investment in hate crime policing will go a long way in increasing capacity of our law enforcement agencies to both deter these incidents and bring justice to hate crime victims,” Jamie Kirzner-Roberts, senior director of policy and advocacy said in a statement.

The budget also doubles the funding for the post held by Deborah Lyons, the special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combatting antisemitism.

Lyons, who assumed the job just days after the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 and the subsequent rise in antisemitism in Canada, has said her office is under-resourced. The budget adds $7.3 million over six years to the $1.2 million annual funding that was already allocated. (The same amount was committed to the Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia.)

The Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), which has been used by Jewish institutions to cover 50 percent of the costs of items like security cameras and reinforced windows and doors also received an infusion of funding. The program will receive $21.5 million this year and next year—an increase from the $20.5 million allocated for 2023. 

In a pre-budget submission to the government, CIJA had asked for the government to cover 70 percent of the cost of security upgrades for small organizations and to allow groups to apply for funding while under “severe threat” but before a hate-motivated incident occurs.

In Montreal, for example, when bullets were fired at two schools last November, only those buildings were eligible for increased SIP funding, because a police report was needed for the application, although other community institutions faced the same threat, Metcalfe said.

In 2023, the SIP fund ran out, even though an additional $10 million of emergency funding was added.

“We are getting more money and there will be more projects that will be green-lit, so hopefully this money will be enough, but if it’s not, we’ll be the first to tell the government,” Metcalfe said.

While the budget promises to cut the red tape involved in the program, no specific details were provided.

Details were also not available for a new National Holocaust Remembrance Program, which will receive $5 million over five years and $2 million in ongoing funding. An additional $5 million over two years is earmarked for the Montreal Holocaust Museum, which is currently under construction.

New funding, $12.9 million over six years, with nearly $1 million ongoing, has been allocated for improved collection of hate-crime statistics.

Canada is the only country of the J7 (the seven largest Jewish communities in the world) which does not record monthly hate-crime data, CIJA’s pre-budget submission pointed out. Statistics Canada currently provides an annual summary of hate-motivated incidents and a number of municipal police departments provide monthly tallies.

“What has been exposed, especially in this crisis that we have been in since Oct. 7, are some of the flaws that we have with the data that the government of Canada has been able to provide us and how it prevents us from providing hard data to advocate for ourselves,” Metcalfe said. “We’re trying to solve some of the problems with police knowing what a hate crime is, with Crown prosecutors knowing what a hate crime is and specifically understanding the nuances of antisemitism.”

While the funding for the national action plan on combatting hate is welcomed by the Jewish community, it is still unclear how the programs will be implemented. More details are to be announced by the Kamal Khera, minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities.

“We still have to see with the implementation of these initiatives if the problems are solved by the money that the government allocated. There are a million different things that can go wrong between implementation, but the first step is putting your money where your mouth is,” Metcalfe said.

Deborah Lyons’ office replied to a question from The CJN about the details of funding for her office and hate-crime initiatives, by saying they too were awaiting more information from the minister.