I am a proud Canadian – proud of a culture that, despite the vast array of peoples that have joined the Canadian mosaic, has established the acceptance of others as one of its core values. The elevation of this value of acceptance has allowed Canadians to co-exist, while still being different.
We Canadian Jews are very lucky to live in a place and a time that is one of the best, at least for us, in the history of the world. We have fought for, and obtained, equal opportunity, and we have done well with those opportunities. We are respected and valued, and we respect and value others. We represent only about one per cent of the population, but we have punched above our weight in virtually all aspects of our society, and have historically been cheered on, for the most part, by our fellow Canadians. This is an incredible accomplishment for Canadian Jews – and for Canada.
But there are worrying signs that this positive situation may be eroding. In Canada, incidents of anti-Semitism are increasing and Jews are far more likely than any other group to experience racism (seven times more likely than Muslims, in fact).
Swastikas have been found on many university campuses and Jews are regularly shouted down by pro-Palestinian mobs. Recently, Sheikh Shafiq Huda called for the eradication of Zionists and Israelis at an Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto and this is not the first time we have heard these types of statements at this event. Yet it is allowed to take place, year after year, by our elected officials.
What we hear in response to Al-Quds Day threats are words, not actions. And our federal government focuses almost exclusively on racism against Muslims – empowering the use of the disingenuous term “Islamophobia,” passing Motion M-103 and suggesting that more “protection” for Muslims may follow after various hearings and reports are issued. At the same time, our prime minister has come out swinging against the Jewish state, in response to the necessary and legitimate Israeli reaction to the attacks on its border with Gaza.
It hardly gives one the warm fuzzies knowing that we are the number 1 target, but our government is focussing its attention on the very group that is fomenting anti-Semitism around the world more than any other; the very religion that populates multiple countries that will not admit Jews and in some cases call for another Holocaust, either within Israel, or everywhere that Jews exist.
The history of Muslims and Jews in Canada has been positive for the most part, but trends in the Muslim world have changed and Muslims now entering Canada are carrying very different prejudices than their predecessors. This presents many new risks.
Meanwhile, in western Europe, we see the effects of large minorities of Muslims on local populations. Whether it’s crimes perpetrated by Muslims in the U.K., no-go zones in major cities in Europe or rabbis and other Jewish leaders calling for Jews to leave some European countries for fear of their lives, the trend is distinctively negative. Could this not happen in Canada? Are the conditions really all that different?
Today, we feel comfortable walking on any street in Toronto with a kippah on our heads, or a Jewish star around our necks. But it will only take one or two incidents of hatred to change that forever. Our governments must wake up and show real leadership in recognizing these trends and eliminating this risk.
It is entirely reasonable to be afraid of where we are headed, because out of that fear comes the opportunity to focus on the risks and what can be done to alleviate them. Open conversations are required, and political correctness must be put aside, in favour of open dialogue. If that dialogue leads to the conclusion that Canada is different, then we can celebrate. But the conclusions may be otherwise, and to avoid talking about it out of fear of being labeled a racist is self-defeating, not just for the Jewish community, but for Canada as a whole.