Jewish Group Urges Montreal City Council to Reject Controversial Definition of Antisemitism

January 23, 2020 – Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) is urging Montreal’s City Council to reject a resolution on January 27th which would implement a controversial definition of antisemitism that has divided the Jewish community. Introduced by members of the opposition at city hall, the resolution moves that the city adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition on antisemitism. 

IJV firmly rejects the IHRA definition because it conflates antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israel. As such, it represents a threat to the many Montrealers who support or work for Palestinian human rights, and to the freedom of expression of all Montrealers. Of the 11 examples of antisemitism listed in the IHRA’s working definition, 7 of them make specific mention of Israel. IJV argues that the definition itself is vague, while the examples given by the IHRA have been used to silence dissent around Palestine. 

Video from IJV’s press conference in Montreal, January 23, 2020

IJV is currently running a national campaign to challenge the adoption of the IHRA definition by public bodies across the country. Montreal is the third city in Canada to vote on the definition following its adoption by the federal Liberal government as part of its “Anti-racism strategy” in June. Similar motions failed last year in both Vancouver and Calgary. This was due in part to the work of IJV members in those cities who campaigned their local councils to reject the IHRA’s dangerous definition.

Over the last year, there has been a groundswell of popular opposition to the IHRA’s definition. Kenneth Stern, who drafted the IHRA definition, recently denounced the fact that right-wing Jewish groups are weaponizing it in order to silence voices for Palestinian human rights. In Canada, nearly 300 academics so far have signed an open letter denouncing the IHRA definition, and cautioning against the effect it could have on academic freedom. In Quebec, major trade unions such as the FTQ, CSN, FNEEQ, as well as the Ligue des Droits et Libertés have all expressed their support for dropping the IHRA definition.

“IJV recognizes that antisemitism is a growing problem, and more action needs to be taken to combat it. But we firmly believe that the IHRA definition does far more harm than good,” says Niall Clapham Ricardo of IJV-Montreal. “The real and present danger to Jewish communities in North America is coming from the far-right and white supremacists, not human rights activists. But it is in fact human rights activists who will be targeted if we allow the IHRA definition to pass. We believe that Jews are safer when we recognize that antisemitism is a form of bigotry not unlike Islamophobia or racism, and when we come together with those communities to fight against hate.”

IJV applauds all members of the city council who wish to do more to fight antisemitism on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, adopting the IHRA’s definition is wrong. We are inviting members of the media to come hear from Jews, Palestinians, and our allies who are opposing this motion in the spirit of human rights and free speech.


Aaron Lakoff, IJV Communications and Media Lead

About IJV Canada:

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is a grassroots organization grounded in Jewish tradition that opposes all forms of racism and advocates for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine. IJV has active chapters in cities and on university campuses across the country.