New office will tackle racism in federal institutions as part of $45M national plan

Too busy at the International Metropolis this week to take a closer look to see whether or not it has the potential to have more impact than the post Durban conference Canadian Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR) whose only meaningful result was the collection of hate crimes statistics:

The federal government unveiled its first-ever anti-racism strategy in Toronto today, which will see the creation of an office that will oversee efforts to tackle systemic racism and discrimination in federal institutions.

Speaking at a community centre in the city, Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez unveiled the $45-million, three-year strategy, called “Building a Foundation for Change.”

The strategy’s centrepiece is a $4.6 million anti-racism secretariat that will lead federal efforts in tackling the issue, reporting annually on the federal government’s process — or lack thereof — in addressing racism and discrimination.

The new office will ultimately lead efforts to get federal institutions to identify gaps and co-ordinate initiatives meant to address systemic discrimination, pushing the bureaucracy to better consider the impacts of policies, services and programs on racialized and Indigenous communities.

As well, $5 million will go to community-led digital and civic literacy programming to address online disinformation and hate speech in response to “heightened concerns around online hate.”

The strategy also provides $30 million worth of grant funding for community-based projects, with a focus on improving employment outcomes, public participation, and supporting at-risk youth. The application process will start on Sept. 3.

Another $3.3 million will also go toward a national public education campaign to increase public awareness of the historical roots of racism in Canada and the impact it has had on racialized and religious minority communities, as well as on Indigenous peoples.

The strategy, announced ahead of October’s vote, is being pitched as a “first step” in a longer-term commitment in addressing racism and discrimination in Canada.

“Our government recognizes that we are in a unique position to address racism in our institutions and society. This national anti-racism strategy is an essential first step in building a more inclusive country,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

BACKGROUNDER: Budget 2019: New anti-racism strategy unveiled in budget

Between October 2018 and March 2019, the Department of Canadian Heritage held 22 closed-door consultations across Canada on the creation of a new strategy, as well as hosting an online questionnaire for all Canadians to provide comments.

The strategy’s release today comes after Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes recently said qualified Black Canadians are being passed over for promotions to senior positions within the public service.

As a final act in the House, she tabled a private members’ bill last week that would require the Canadian Human Rights Commission to specifically report annually on federal efforts to promote Black Canadians and other visible minorities to more senior positions within the public service.

Caesar-Chavannes, who is not running for re-election, told the Canadian Press that there has been a “thinning out” of visible minorities at the assistant-deputy-minister level and no Black person has ever been appointed as a federal deputy minister.

A recent survey of nine countries also found Canadian visible minorities are 11 per cent more likely to face discrimination in hiring than their American counterparts.

Researchers at Northwestern University looked at more than 200,000 job applications, and broke down the results by race, to see whether minority candidates with similar qualifications to white ones got as many callbacks. Canada was the third-worst country examined in the study, which also looked at the U.K., Sweden, Germany, France and the U.S.

Today’s strategy also provides working definitions for Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s wording for the latter term. The strategy also includes $6.2 million to improve data collection on race and ethnicity.

In 2018, the Liberal government set aside $19 million as a “first step” towards recognizing the challenges faced by Black Canadians and focus on Black youth and enhancing mental health supports for the Black community.

Meanwhile, the 2019 budget acknowledged “ultra-nationalist” movements have emerged across the world and such groups are “unfairly targeting new Canadians, racialized individuals and religious minorities.”

According to Statistics Canada, police-reported hate crimes motivated by religion, race, or ethnicity, increased by 47 per cent in 2017.

Source: New office will tackle racism in federal institutions as part of $45M national plan

UK: How a radical new form of anti-racism can save Labour

Valid approach that applies more broadly that antisemitism/anti-Zionism. But hard to implement as it requires some compartmentalization:

An announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that it is launching a formal investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party is one more sign that the controversy cannot be addressed by internal procedures alone. Was it ever solvable through the party’s own efforts? There was a time when I thought it might be.

Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party in September 2015, there was deep disquiet in sections of the British Jewish community about what was perceived as his tolerance for Islamist terrorist groups. Following his election, repeated instances of antisemitic comments in the burgeoning Corbynite grassroots further stoked alarm. The attempted coup against Corbyn’s leadership in June 2016 deepened the problem, with non-Corbynite Jewish party members (and those within the Jewish Labour Movement in particular) becoming the focus of anger from some who supported Corbyn’s transformation of the party.

There has been no shortage of efforts to address this situation. There was the Chakrabarti inquiry in June 2016 and repeated statements by Corbyn and others condemning antisemitism. There have been meetings, both confidential and announced, between Jewish communal leaders and the Labour leadership. There have been rule changes and bureaucratic restructuring intended to improve the party’s disciplinary procedures.

For years I’ve been advocating dialogue as a way to address the crisis generated by antisemitism within Labour. For a long time my working assumption was that hardcore, unrepentant, unredeemable antisemites in the party were a tiny minority, but there was a much bigger group that fell into antisemitic language occasionally or out of ignorance. The first group could not be dialogued out of existence – only expelled – but the larger group might be open to education. What was crucial was to engage those Corbynites who had no history of antisemitism and might be able to exert influence on others. I did have some hope that, through hard work and trust-building, it might be possible to reach some kind of understanding between those who lead the Labour party and Jews concerned about antisemitism.

Not only has nothing worked, but efforts to fix things have themselves deepened the controversy. Meetings between Corbyn and Jewish community leaders have been tenseand incomprehending affairs. Institutional investigations and reforms are either seen as a whitewash from the Jewish side (as with the Chakrabarti report) or as an unacceptable compromise with them (as in the 2018 adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by the Labour party national executive committee).

Now, with Jewish support for Labour dropping like a stone and accusations that the party is institutionally antisemitic, antisemitism in the party has not gone away and the political dispute over it is worse than ever. There is no reason to think that the EHRC will end the dispute, whatever its findings – things are just too far gone for that.

So what next? There is a way back, but it’s going to take a radical rethinking of what anti-racism means.

We got into this mess in the first place because sections of the left have never been able to reconcile themselves to the fact that the majority of British Jews are Zionists in some shape or form, either self-identifying as such or supporting the principle of Israel as a Jewish state. That fundamental bewilderment, that sense that Jews should know better, has been combined with a love of that significant minority of Jews who are not Zionists. Groups such as the Corbyn-supporting Jewish Voice for Labour, which is largely made up of Jews who reject Zionism, tacitly encourage the sentiment: “Why can’t all Jews be like that?”

Given that the divisions between Jewish Zionists and anti-Zionists are very much out in the open, it is all too easy to pick and choose the Jews one listens to and to damn the rest.

I am not one of those Jews who would argue that members of Jewish Voice for Labour are not really Jews and should be shunned by non-Jews. But there is no way around the fact that, intentionally or unintentionally, they encourage the fantasy that all you need to do to oppose antisemitism is to draw close to those Jews with whom you are in sympathy. This fantasy has exposed under-discussed questions about how anti-racism should express solidarity with minorities who are subjected to racism: what happens when those minorities, or significant sections of them, hold to politics with which you don’t agree? And what happens when those minorities treat those politics as non-negotiable parts of their identity?

Too often, anti-racism on sections of the left is predicated on wilful ignorance about what the victims of racism actually believe. Jews have a way of forcing the issue: our overwhelming (but by no means total) embrace of Zionism has been so public that it cannot be avoided. This has presented a quandary to those who see themselves as supporters of the Palestinians: how can the victims of racism be racists themselves? The way out of that has sometimes been to deny that Jews today constitute a group that can suffer racism at all (other than perhaps at the hand of good old-fashioned Nazis); we have been subsumed into white privilege. The result has been that progressive movements increasingly find it difficult to include Jews who do not renounce Zionism, as the controversy surrounding antisemitism in the Women’s March in the US has shown.

The only way out of this impasse is to recast anti-racist solidarity so that it is completely decoupled from political solidarity. Anti-racism must become unconditional, absolute, and not requiring reciprocity. Anti-racism must be explicitly understood as fighting for the right of minorities to pursue their own political agendas, even if they are abhorrent to you. Anti-racism requires being scrupulous in how one talks or acts around those one might politically despise.

This isn’t just an issue that applies to Jews and antisemitism. We are beginning to see the strains in other forms of anti-racism too, when minorities start becoming politically awkward. The opposition from some British Muslim groups to teaching LGBT issues in school is one example of this. Yet opposition to Islamophobia is as vital as opposition to homophobia and one must not be sacrificed on the altar of the other.

The anti-racism that I suggest is a kind of self-sacrifice. Anti-racists must acknowledge but restrain how they really feel about those who must be defended against racism. Doing so involves a constant balancing act: supporting the right for Zionist Jews to live free from abuse and harassment while, at the same time, fighting for the right of Palestinians to live free from oppression. Creating that balance involves teeth-gritting; choosing not to pursue the most unbridled forms of political warfare when it involves ethno-religious minorities such as Jews.

It sounds like a horrible, frustrating and maddening process. But who said that anti-racism was going to be easy? Well, it isn’t easy and the fantasy that it is got us into this predicament in the first place.

This, then, is what a solution to the Labour party antisemitism crisis will have to look like, now that dialogue and conflict resolution have proved to be dead ends: an acknowledgment from the anti-Zionist left that anti-racist solidarity with those seen as despicable Zionist Jews must be unconditional. This is what I call “sullen solidarity” – and it is the most powerful form of solidarity there is.

Paradoxically, the first step in cultivating this sullen solidarity should be restraining love for those Jews with whom one is most in sympathy. The Labour leadership needs to stop its repeated expressions of support for particular Jewish traditions; its Passover messages about social justice and its invocations of the battle of Cable Street. As a leftwing Israel-critical Jew, I myself honour and respect some of the traditions with which Corbyn empathises, but I don’t need my way of being Jewish to be validated by anyone. Anti-racism should not be a reward for being culturally interesting or politically sympathetic; it should require no justification.

I am totally uninterested in whether the Labour leadership like Jews or what sort of Jews they like. I care only that they will refrain from expressing love for certain kinds of Jews and distrust of others, and that they will defend all of us from antisemitism, however unlikable they might find us.

Source: How a radical new form of anti-racism can save Labour

Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything?

These processes take time. A more interesting article would compare the progress of the four subcommittees:

A year ago, Ontario’s Liberal government unveiled its three-year anti-racism strategy. A Better Way Forward included initiatives “to combat systemic racism and create equitable outcomes for indigenous and racialized communities.”

Anti-racism, the 60-page plan stated, “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it.”

Four subcommittees were set up last March under the province’s Anti-Racism Directorate, which was established in February 2016 by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism. The subcommittees are tasked with studying racism directed at blacks, indigenous people, Muslims and Jews respectively.

The directorate’s goal is “to eliminate systemic racism in government policies, decisions and programs,” and to boost public education and awareness of racism.

On June 1, Ontario passed its sweeping Anti-Racism Act. Among other things, the law mandates a review of anti-racism strategies at least every five years.

The subcommittee examining anti-Semitism has been toiling in relative obscurity ever since. Its unpaid members, which were chosen on the basis of their expertise in the area, were confirmed last spring. The first meeting was held in October, with two more in December and February. A fourth meeting has not yet been scheduled.

The committee is co-chaired by Bernie Farber, formerly of Canadian Jewish Congress and the Mosaic Institute, and Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.

Its members are: Karen Mock, chair of the progressive Zionist group JSpace Canada; Len Rudner, formerly of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA); Zach Potashner of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre; Pamela Divinsky, director of the Mosaic Institute; Madi Murariu from CIJA; Tom Henheffer, a journalist and media consultant; Hersh Perlis, director of the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University and a former adviser at Queen’s Park; Nikki Holland, director of public affairs for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario; Brianna Ames, a volunteer with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee; and Amanda Hohmann, who at first represented B’nai Brith Canada, but now represents La’ad Canada, a new group focused on the next generation of Jewish Canadians. (B’nai Brith says it’s in the process of naming a new envoy to the committee).

In an email to The CJN, the anti-racism directorate explained that all four subcommittees are tasked with providing “population-specific and community perspectives on supporting and implementing … anti-racism initiatives” and providing input on “ongoing public awareness and education initiatives related to systemic racism.”

Asked what it has achieved, Farber said that even establishing an anti-racism directorate is an accomplishment, because it recognizes that within issues around racism, anti-Semitism “is seen individually and separately as a very impactful issue of discrimination that has to be dealt with on its own basis. That recognition has never been there before, officially.”

And “there’s a lot more to be done. We are just scratching the surface,” he added.

One hope is for the committee to reach out to FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together), an activist group that opposes anti-Semitism, and Facing History and Ourselves, an educational organization that aims to engage students in issues of racism and genocide, Farber said.

Freedman told The CJN that the committee has narrowed its focus to education initiatives.

“One of our main areas is education and raising public awareness on anti-Semitism to ensure there’s a multi-faceted approach to the issue that involves all levels of government,” she said.

As for a definition of anti-Semitism, Freedman said that she and Farber will recommend that the committee adopt the one used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has also been adopted by the government of Canada. It says that anti-Semitism “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The only times the anti-Semitism subcommittee has been in the news was when two groups, Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), complained that they were deliberately excluded because they are openly critical of Israel and support Palestinian rights.

The organizations launched a petition on change.org, saying the directorate would “increase its credibility and effectiveness” by including “a greater range of Jewish voices, including those who are critical of Israel.” To date, it has nearly 900 signatures.

On Feb. 20, Teresa Armstrong, an NDP MPP from London, tabled the petition in the legislature.

Criticism of Israel’s government or policies “is not inherently anti-Semitic,” she said, quoting the petition, and confusing criticism of Israel’s government or policies with anti-Semitism “can have the adverse effect of silencing critical voices.”

Farber said that the two groups were not deliberately excluded, but that they focused on including “those Jewish organizations which deal specifically with anti-Semitism.” The focus of UJPO and IJV is not anti-Semitism, he said.

via Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything? – The Canadian Jewish News