August 17, 2017
Over the past few days, the CIJA team has reflected on last weekend’s shameful events in Charlottesville, assessing what it means for our community in Canada.
We are horrified by the images emerging from Charlottesville. Displays of Nazism and white supremacy are shocking and disgusting to all people of good will. For our community, particularly for “Survivors”, they are especially jarring and remind us of our darkest moments in history. For those outside the Jewish community, Charlottesville should serve as a stark reminder that antisemitism is real, destructive, and inextricably linked with other forms of racism and hate.
The Jewish community knows the impact of this hatred all too well. Even in a pluralistic country such as Canada, Jews remain the most targeted religious community for hate crimes. Clearly, we are not immune. But neither are we alone. Canada is among the best places in the world to be Jewish.
I wanted to share a few reflections on the situation in Canada to add perspective to a challenging week.
1. The Security Situation in Canada is Unchanged
The first thing to note is that the security situation for our community in Canada has not changed. In concert with our Federation partners who are the foundation of the National Community Security Program (NCSP), which CIJA coordinates, we maintain excellent relations with law enforcement at all levels. We are in continual contact with them and we monitor developments closely. I can confirm that there is no intelligence whatsoever to indicate that the threat to our community has increased.
2. Our Allies Far Outnumber Our Enemies
Second, despite having promoted their appalling event weeks in advance, the white supremacists behind the Charlottesville rally managed to gather only a few hundred people from across a country of 320 million. By comparison, with only 24 hours’ notice, a diverse crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at my synagogue in Ottawa last November to unite in the face of a spree of hateful graffiti.
This is just one example that shows that for every anti-semite who peddles their disgusting ideology in Canada, we have countless allies willing to stand with our community. In that spirit, we will be working with our interfaith partners and other leaders in civil society to demonstrate that – together – we will not be silent during these challenging times. You can expect to see a very public display of solidarity across communities in the coming weeks.
3. We Must Build Upon Our Strengths to Defeat Hate
In democracies like Canada, it’s clear that white supremacists and neo-Nazis have lost the battle of ideas. In their worldview, there is no place for the democratic freedoms, pluralism, and equality that define our country. The vast majority of Canadians reject their toxic ideology. This does not mean we can be complacent, far from it. But, in our vigilance, we must remember that they – not we – are the ones who are in a position of weakness and illegitimacy.
Charlottesville should be a personal call to action for each of us to take an active role in the fight against antisemitism and hate. The best way an individual can fight hatred is to confront it immediately when they see it, whether on the bus, on the internet, or during social interactions. It takes courage, but it is necessary to preserve everything we value.
We will continue to work with our partners in the NCSP to monitor the security situation, including copy-cat rallies in Canada such as those expected in Vancouver this weekend and in Toronto in September, and we will be sure to keep you informed. If you hear of a rally in your community, I would be grateful if you let us know.
We will also continue making the case, in media and in our conversations with officials, that antisemitism – regardless of the ideology from which it emanates – is not just a Jewish problem. Left unchecked, it can destroy everything a democratic society values.
These are my observations, but I want to know what you think. Please connect with us by engaging with us on Facebook, or getting involved with our work in your community.
Together, we will stand up to hatred and protect what we cherish.
Sincerely, Shimon Koffler Fogel, Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs