As the year comes to a close, here are our top 15 highlights from 2015 – in no particular order:
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1. The 42nd Canadian Election
With the writ having dropped in early August, CIJA worked to inform and engage Canada’s Jewish community in the 42nd Canadian election. We developed and published the 2015 Elections Issues Guide, highlighting for candidates and community members alike a wide range of policy concerns of importance to Canadian Jewry, including human rights, social justice, community security, and Canada-Israel relations. CIJA’s Beyond the Ballot Box campaign challenged community members to vote, volunteer, reach out to local candidates, and help others cast their ballot on election.
CIJA also hosted all-candidate debates in Vancouver and Toronto, which provided the Jewish community an opportunity to engage directly with local candidates.
2. Take Action
CIJA mobilized Canada’s Jewish community to take meaningful action through a series of campaigns targeted at Canada’s policy-makers in light of the Iranian nuclear deal and rising Palestinian terrorism. CIJA also launched a campaign to combat BDS at the University of Waterloo, where – in 48 hours – more than 500 people thanked University of Waterloo President Hamdullahpur for expanding partnerships with Israeli universities.
3. CIJA Testifies for Bill C-51
When it comes to terrorism, the Jewish community is an at-risk community, which is why CIJA was active in the debate surrounding Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015. CIJA Chair David Cape testified to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, providing insights and amendments that directly stemmed from CIJA’s consultations with the grassroots Jewish community.
4. Calling for Restitution for Holocaust Survivors
CIJA is working with Canadian Survivors and organizations such as the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) to secure restitution for Holocaust survivors whose property and assets were stolen during the Shoah. In March, we secured public statements of support from all three major federal parties calling on European states to take immediate measures to provide long-overdue restitution for Holocaust Survivors.
Last year, the Ombudsman for Radio-Canada (CBC’s French language service) issued a report acknowledging serious anti-Israel bias and urging the news department to “change its attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. In 2015, the Ombudsman again slammed Radio-Canada for error-prone and biased reporting on Israel based on a formal complaint issued by CIJA.
6. Syrian Refugee Crisis
Canada’s organized Jewish community took action in response to the devastating Syrian refugee crisis. We mobilized the Jewish community by providing information to synagogues and families about how to sponsor refugees, including directing them toward Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) and Lifeline Syria. CIJA also launched a partnership between Canada’s Jewish community, Canada’s business sector, and the Jordanian government to raise funds to help alleviate the suffering of refugees currently living in Jordan.
7. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
CIJA developed a cross-Canada partnership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as they developed the final report published in 2015. This included educational programming support in Vancouver, participation on the steering committee for the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver, organization of an inter-generational dialogue between Holocaust Survivors and Residential School survivors, an expression of reconciliation at the final TRC program in Ottawa, and participation of a Jewish delegation at the Walk for Reconciliation in Ottawa.
8. Words and Deeds 2015
CIJA hosted two successful Words and Deeds Leadership Award Dinners honouring Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in Toronto and the Asper Family & Foundation in Winnipeg. At the Toronto dinner, Premier Wynne announced that the Ontario Government will be opening a trade office in Tel Aviv in 2016.
9. Protecting Jewish Community Healthcare in Quebec
In Quebec, CIJA called on the government to amend Bill 10, which contained provisions threatening the role of community health and social service institutions. In particular, CIJA asked that the government ensure the assets and rights of communal institutions would remain intact and that their unique cultural and linguistic character would be safeguarded. In February 2015, Bill 10 passed after the government introduced amendments addressing CIJA’s concerns.
10. Strengthening Partnerships
At the end of 2015, CIJA launched a newly restructured Partnerships Team, which aims to build upon CIJA’s interfaith, intercultural and interethnic partnerships. Among many examples, CIJA’s Canadian Rabbinic Caucus (CRC) launched the first national bilateral dialogue between Canada’s Jewish and Catholic communities in November. This culminated in a collaborative declaration committing the CRC and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to work together to oppose antisemitism and advance public policy issues of common cause.
Last year, the courts blocked a significant bequest of a deceased New Brunswick man – Robert McCorkill – to an American neo-Nazi group, an important decision in a case for which CIJA held intervener status. In July 2015, the New Brunswick Court of Appeals rejected an attempt to overturn the decision, reaffirming CIJA’s position and preventing the National Alliance from receiving a quarter million dollars (CAN).
12. Making Jewish Education More Affordable
In the autumn, in partnership with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, CIJA launched an Affordable Education Task Force, focused on securing additional government support for Jewish schools and the parents and students they serve.
In Quebec, CIJA educated a range of advocacy audiences across the political spectrum about the central role Jewish Day Schools play in Jewish life. CIJA regularly serves as a resource to AJDS, an important frontline organization. This year, we faced a number of challenges, and worked closely with AJDS and FCJA to successfully overcome them.
13. Combatting BDS
In 2015 – in partnership with Hillels – CIJA helped students achieve significant victories against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) at McGill, University of British Columbia, Trent, and the University of Toronto. Overall, five BDS motions were blocked or reversed on Canadian campuses this year. Empowering students to counter BDS is a key element of CIJA’s multi-pronged campus strategy.
14. Preventing Genetic Discrimination
As a leading member of the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness, CIJA plays a central role in the effort to ban genetic discrimination. During 2015, we engaged and educated parliamentarians across party lines, urging support for two pieces of legislation prohibiting genetic discrimination (one tabled by the Conservatives in the House of Commons, the other tabled by the Liberals in the Senate). While both initiatives expired when parliament dissolved, CIJA secured commitments from all three parties during the election to support similar legislation in the next parliament.
15. A New Look Online
If you visited our website within the last few months, you may have noticed that CIJA has a new look online – including a rebranded and restructured website. CIJA’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts continue to be among the most followed and most visited online platforms for Canadians seeking information on Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy.