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Mainstream Canadian Jewish organizations don’t get it — Black Lives Matter

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked outrage in the US with hundreds of thousands of protesters, going out night after night in more than 40 cities. And in Canada,  tens of thousands of people in cities and towns (there was a kneeling protest in Cheticamp, Cape Breton) protested racism and injustice toward blacks across the country.

Let’s look at Canada’s mainstream Jewish organizations’ responses and efforts to fight racism against Black people in the US, and perhaps more importantly in Canada.

First, take a look at the main page of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.  While nothing is posted there, CIJA tweeted five lines (that is correct) which said “with great anger  & broken hearts, we denounce this hate.” Perhaps too little, and too late.

Take a look at B’nai Brith Canada’s website. Nowhere near the front page on their site is an article  We Must All Condemn Anti-Black Racism. It asks  Jews to condemn racism. While that’s a start, the article reveals not one example of racist attacks against Black Canadians.  It mentions the murder of George Floyd, but the writers blames the protestors — not the police —  for “violent and destructive behavior.”

What’s more insulting is that the B’nai Brith League for Human Rights advertises that it is

“dedicated to combating antisemitism and racism at home and around the world, and advocates for human rights issues spanning the civil, political, religious and cultural sectors.”

I underline “racism” because at this time, when people across the continent and the world are fighting against racism and violence against Black people by police, by authorities, and throughout civil society, B’nai Brith’s League has gone silent about police violence against Black Canadians.

Have a look at the blog entry for the Canadian Jewish Record. It too refers only to Black Americans.  While noting the Jim Crow laws, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Selma, Alabama there is not  a word about fighting racism against Black people in Canada.

Where did the Canadian Jewish Congress or the Canadian Jewish News go?

There’s no Canadian Jewish Congress to complain to. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) put it to death 9 years ago – after 100 years of existence. There’s no Canadian Jewish News to write to—it outlived it’s more than 44-year publishing history in Canada, and stopped publishing in early April.

What is a Jew to do when she wants to see a Jewish Canadian response to the racial hatred – primarily against Black people.

This week has seen hundreds of demonstrations and rallies against police brutality, op-eds in every newspaper, full coverage by the CBC and the commercial TV outlets. One of the CBC’s own reporters was treated to police violence herself while covering the protests. On May 30, Susan Ormiston, who is white and a veteran senior CBC journalist, was hit with a rubber bullet and a gas canister while reporting at a demonstration against the police in Minneapolis. She was standing with her cameraman in an empty parking lot on the fringe of the protest. No outrage by the CBC; in fact they buried the news item.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada leads the way

Human and civil rights organizations one after the other have come out in support of the campaign Black Lives Matter – but B’nai Brith Canada’s, CIJA’s and the Jewish Record’s response has been disappointing, at the very least.

People have to turn to Independent Jewish Voices which advocates for the struggle against racism and focuses on Black people—who have doubtless suffered more aggression, maltreatment and police violence than any other minority group in the country.

To find out what the major Canadian Jewish organization which fights for human rights – be it in Palestine or in Canada — does in support of Black Lives Matter see Canadian Jews Say Black Lives Matter! – Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Judy Haiven is on the Steering Committee of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

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