7 March, 2020

The ONDP must oppose Bill 168

Three Canadian justice-seeking organizations will combine efforts on Saturday at the Ontario NDP Provincial Council to voice their fierce opposition to the ONDP support for Bill 168, which aims to officially conflate the definition of antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel.

On Thursday, February 27, Bill 168 passed its second reading at Queen’s Park, with full support from both the Conservative Party, and the New Democratic Party.

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), the Courage Coalition and Palestine House, representing 4900 supporters from all across Canada, all stand jointly opposed to this dangerous legislation, saying that it will promote racism and curtail civil liberties. They are deeply disappointed that the ONDP lacks the courage to stand against it. The IHRA definition was recently defeated in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver’s city councils . This will be the first time it is adopted by a provincial or territorial government.

“1100+ people have sent letters to their NDP MPPs in the last three weeks pleading with them to respect our rights and not support Bill 168. So far they are being ignored. If the IHRA definition passes into law, it will pose serious threats to both Jewish and Palestinian people in Ontario” said Sheryl Nestel, on behalf of IJV in Toronto.

The ONDP caucus have said that they understand how this bill fails to tackle antisemitism, yet they don’t seem to have the conviction to oppose it. As a Jewish person in Ontario, and as a vocal critic of Israel’s human rights violations, this legislation places me and my community at risk.

More than 400 Canadian academics have recently signed a statement that decries the IHRA definition because:

It equates anti-semitism with criticism of Israel. It is an attack on the freedom of expression that allows us to stand up for human rights in Palestine and any other legitimate criticism of Israel. No other country or government in the world is protected from vocal critique in Canada. This Bill sets a frightening precedent.

It is far too vague at defining the very real problem of antisemitism, which is troubling considering the rise of white supremacy and racism against Jews that we see in Canada and around the world. Jews are put in danger when we don’t have clear eyes on what actually threatens them.

It’s clear, therefore, that the IHRA definition is harmful to both Jewish and Palestinian people, as well as anyone who chooses to publicly critique Israel.

The ONDP, has chosen to support Doug Ford’s Conservative government who are following in the same footsteps as Donald Trump by passing Bill 168” said Courage Coalition member, Darrah Teitel.

Many Courage members work to compel principled actions and policies from the New Democrat Party and we say this is a cynical and cowardly move on behalf of Horwath and her caucus. We want a party that stands up for human rights and against real antisemitism.”

This Saturday, at the ONDP Provincial Council, Electoral District Associations and their constituents have the opportunity to raise their voices to support direct democracy within their party. Several EDAs have passed resolutions against the IHRA Bill in the past two weeks alone and we expect to see those resolutions addressed by the council. This is important not only because of the Bill is harmful, but also because MPPs in the ONDP will also be bound to the IHRA definition. The result would mean that progressive MPPs could no longer point to the speak against the historical and current human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel.

“It is disappointing to see the NDP turn it’s back on the Palestinian people” said Hammam Farah of Palestine House, the Palestinian Community Centre. “My people have long suffered under the Israeli Apartheid Regime and Canada has long been complicit in this. The Liberal and Conservative Party have never been the party to support our rights, but to see the NDP slowly take the same direction is disheartening. We will not stand for it”.