Federal budget increases spending for security infrastructure program and anti-racism initiatives

The 2023 federal budget, delivered in the House of Commons on March 28, promises to triple its past spending on security, earmarking $49.5 million over five years to enhance and expand the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program.

This program is a critical tool in protecting community institutions such as synagogues, mosques, schools, and community centres.

“The Jewish community has benefitted enormously from this program as well as other ethno-religious communities, most notably the Sikh and Muslim community,” said David Cooper, vice- president of government relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

According to Cooper, this program is essential for providing security equipment and infrastructure, such as secure doors, protective film for windows, and alarm systems, to synagogues, Jewish community centres and schools.

“Until recently, it was really synagogues and Jewish community institutions that were paying a significant cost for security measures that other communities weren’t having to pay,” said Cooper.

He points to an example where the program proved its value. In 2021, a man tried to set fire to the front doors of the synagogue Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal. Their security cameras spotted the culprit and the police were able to arrest him right away.

“We are really grateful to the government for stepping in and playing a role to ensure that the community is safe. It’s incumbent on any government to ensure that every community can worship safely,” said Cooper.

The budget also includes $85 million over the next four years allocated toward a new anti-racism strategy. That funding is part of a more general commitment toward fighting hate, discrimination and systemic racism.

An additional $25.4 million over five years will be allocated to Heritage Canada to combat different forms of racism, including but not limited to anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“The government is putting a lot of money into anti-racism which we applaud. It’s something we believe is quite important in terms of teaching about antisemitism, Holocaust denial, and disinformation,” said Cooper.

Cooper believes the Jewish community benefitted greatly from the previous budget. For example, funds were received for the redevelopment of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre and for the Montreal and Toronto Holocaust museums.

“It was a good budget. You can’t expect that every budget will have everything for everyone.”