Slight decline in National audit of antisemitic incidents is far from reassuring

By Marvin Rotrand

(AJNews) – The Canadian Jewish community can take some solace in the numbers reported in the 2022 B’nai Brith Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The total incidents recorded for the year was 2,769, down 1.1% from the 2,799 incidents logged in 2021. Notably, this is the first year-over-year decrease we have seen since 2015, when the Audit reported a 21.5% decline from 2014.

When viewed from a historical perspective, however, the numbers are less reassuring. In 2012, the Jewish community sounded the alarm when that Audit noted 1345 antisemitic incidents, the highest ever since we first began auditing in 1982. Ten years later, the number is an alarming 105.9% higher than that reported in 2012, and the second highest total since we started tracking 41 years ago.

The nature of antisemitism has changed as well. Social media has become the largest medium for antisemitic narratives, giving purveyors of hate a global audience and limitless reach. Of the 2,769 total incidents recorded last year, 2,056 – or 74.3% – occurred online. Canada’s laws have failed to keep pace with the explosion of antisemitism in online spaces, allowing this phenomenon to go unchecked. Law reforms similar to those enacted by Germany and France will be necessary to blunt this growing threat.

The 2022 Audit numbers do offer some welcome news. Documentable violent incidents targeting Jews decreased from 75 in 2021 to 25 in 2022. A variety of factors likely contributed to this decline. After the 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict that led to a record number of attacks on Jews in Canada, relative peace in the region in 2022 resulted in far less violence.

The Government of Canada has also begun to implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and four additional provinces adopted the definition in 2022. Since 2020, Canada has had a Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, which will receive $5.6 million from the Government over the next five years.

Following through on its pledges at the 2021 Malmö Forum, the Government of Canada passed legislation to criminalize Holocaust denial and distortion other than in private conversation. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security provided clear guidance on how to tackle the ideologically motivated violent extremism that thrives online. Lastly, the Government acknowledged the need for a foreign agent registry to prevent foreign influence over Canadian society, institutions, and democracy, and we expect legislation to be tabled in 2023.

Ontario announced that it would commence mandatory Holocaust education in Grade 6 as of the 2023-2024 school year. The Northwest Territories indicated it would follow suit, and several provinces are considering re-examining their curricula to address the limited awareness of the Holocaust among young people.

The challenges before us are profound, but there is reason to be optimistic. Developments from the past year reveal a growing appreciation of the threat of antisemitism and the need to tackle it head on. In 2023, we will continue to focus our efforts on urging all remaining provinces to enact IHRA, and on partnering with government and law enforcement to fight the rot of antisemitism wherever and whenever it happens.

Marvin Rotrand is the National Director of the League for Human Rights, B’nai Brith Canada’s advocacy arm, which compiles the annual audit.

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