Anti-Semitism is on the rise on university campuses across Canada, according to a news release by a government committee on Thursday.
The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) is calling on the Canadian government to address the issue of anti-Semitism in universities across the country, as well as establish a clear definition.
The report, compiled by Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic party MPs, investigates the source and development of anti-Semitism in Canada since November 2009. The CPCCA is an unofficial committee of the House of Commons, who held a conference on anti-Semitism in Ottawa late last year.
Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), said he agreed with the report’s finding the “line beyond which criticism of Israel loses all semblance of fairness or reason,” becoming attacks against Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state.
Fogel also said the report confirms that Canadian universities are becoming poisonous ground for hate speech against Jewish and non-Jewish students who support the state of Israel.
Critics said the CPCCA called for written statements on anti-Semitism from various groups, but many dissenting responding groups were not welcome to participate.
In a submission to the CPCCA, one group, Seriously Free Speech, accused the coalition of not targeting racism or hate crimes, but simply to broaden the terms of anti-Semitism in Canada to match those in Europe, branding any criticism of Israel as illegitimate or even criminal. Another group, Independent Jewish Voices of Canada, has even created an online petition opposing the CPCCA’s intentions.
The CPCCA told critics that it was not seeking to curb criticism of Israel, but simply to address concerns of anti-Semitism being manifested to an unprecedented degree.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) in Toronto, which helps spread awareness for the Palestinian cause at Toronto and York universities as well as Carleton in Ottawa, promotes a non-violent “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” campaign, their website states.
The group operates alongside other anti-“apartheid” organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
In 2010, a bill presented by Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman was passed by Ontario Legislature to change the name of “Israeli Apartheid Week”, an event held on university campuses across the world, removing the term “apartheid” from the title.
"The issue of anti-Semitism as it relates to Israel is cloudy. Not every comment taking a poke at Israel is considered anti-Semitic," Shurman told Digital Journal. "It's a country like any other, does things that are right and wrong, and is open to criticism."
Shurman said with regards to York University and University of Toronto specifically, volume of support for "Israeli Apartheid Week" has dropped in the last year since the resolution was unanimously passed in the Legislature. He said while criticism is always welcome, it is when Israel's existential legitimacy is questioned, that the line of criticism is crossed.
Following the motion’s passing last year, Shurman and other MPPs received hundreds of hate mail over banning the use of the word “apartheid”, a term he claims does not “support dialogue”. Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo even claimed to have received death threats over her support for the bill.