Dear Mayor-Elect Sim and Incoming Vancouver City Council,
We are writing to express our grave concerns regarding the ABC campaign promise to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and ask you to not proceed.
UBCIC staunchly opposes antisemitism and is ardently committed to combatting all forms of racism, prejudice, and violence. We cannot support the IHRA definition and accompanying list of illustrative examples of antisemitism; the vague IHRA definition conflates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism and thereby limits freedom of expression and Canadians’ right to public protest, including against Israeli state policies, violations of international law, and violent oppression of Indigenous Palestinians. Should Vancouver City Council adopt the IHRA definition, human rights advocates standing against such injustice could be falsely denounced for antisemitism.
We do not condone protecting Israel from criticism in relation to its settler colonial policies and mistreatment of Palestinians. We call on you Mayor-Elect Sim and incoming Vancouver City Council members, to live up to Vancouver’s commitment to the UN declaration, its recent adoption of a ground-breaking UNDRIP Strategy and Task Force, and its designation as a City of Reconciliation. Adoption of the IHRA definition stands in direct opposition to these commitments.
Many other organizations are on record in opposition to the IHRA definition of antisemitism including the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, 40 faculty associations across the country as well as 40 international Jewish organizations which issued the following statement:
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is increasingly being adopted or considered by western governments, is worded in such a way as to be easily adopted or considered by western governments to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former.
This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law (Jewish Voice for Peace)
Adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is in direct contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). Articles 2, 3, 4, 26, and 33 of the UN Declaration in particular uphold Indigenous peoples rights’ to self-determination and self-governance, freedom from discrimination, and rights to lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, used or acquired and determine that states shall establish and implement, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used.
We urge you to consider your position as elected leaders of a democratic government to uphold the right to public discourse, expression of condemnation and dissent against colonization, oppression and violence without fear of censorship or false accusation of antisemitism, and to stand for the rights of Indigenous peoples.
We look forward to your response.
On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip President
Chief Don Tom Vice-president
Chief Judy Wilson Secretary-Treasurer
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