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Canada to make special envoy on antisemitism a permanent post, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Canada will develop a national plan to combat hate with the help of its special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting antisemitism.

OTTAWA — Canada will develop a national plan to combat hate with the help of its special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting antisemitism.

The Liberal government will also make the special envoy role permanent, and bolster the position with more resources.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to further the fight against antisemitism and all forms of hate in a virtual appearance at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

"We need to attack directly the problem of antisemitism with increased urgency and focus all together, because antisemitism isn't a problem for the Jewish community to solve alone," Trudeau told the forum Wednesday.

"It's everyone's challenge to take on, especially governments."

Former justice minister Irwin Cotler was appointed envoy in November 2020 to advance Holocaust education and fight domestic and global antisemitism.

Cotler was part of the Canadian delegation at the forum, and said Canada's national plan is a necessary step in joining Jews in the fight against antisemitism.

"This is central to the building of a democratic culture as well as the promotion and protection of human rights and human dignity," he said in a statement.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has been advocating for Cotler's role to be made permanent for several years. The group is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

"We are pleased to see that the government has heeded our advice, and we thank them for being our allies in the fight against the scourge of antisemitism," association president Shimon Koffler Fogel said in a statement Wednesday.

B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish human rights organization, says it recorded 2,610 antisemitic incidents last year, the fifth consecutive record-setting year for reports of antisemitism in Canada.

Trudeau told the forum he was deeply concerned about a surge of antisemitism in Canada and abroad, and called it "the canary in the coal mine of evil."

"We've seen so many different radical, extremist groups of various types lashing out at so many different things," he said. "One of the few common things so many of them have is an acceptance of antisemitic stereotypes and tropes that slip into their discourse and that they build so much of their other hatred on."

In July, the federal government hosted a national antisemitism summit where Cotler proposed ideas to fight the phenomenon. The suggestions included more resources for Holocaust and antisemitism education as well as enhanced security and protection for Jewish institutions such as synagogues, schools, community centres and memorial sites.

On Wednesday, Trudeau promised to work with Jewish communities to develop a national plan.

B'nai Brith Canada said it looks forward to helping the government.

"We view this as a true affirmation that the government will not allow the haters to continue to spew their venom," said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights.

Trudeau also urged other governments to adopt the definition of antisemitism put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, as Canada did in 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2021.

— With files from Maan Alhmidi

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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