#NoIHRA in Vancouver: Take Action to Confront Anti-Palestinian Repression

Despite vowing that its candidates were concerned about the housing crisis and an alleged street crime problem, the newly elected ABC majority on the Vancouver City Council has set as one of its first items of business passing the so-called “IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.” Rather than any meaningful attempt to address anti-Semitism — let alone anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and ongoing settler colonialism — the purpose of the IHRA definition is to stigmatize anti-Zionism and repress Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizing and expression.

In the motion introduced by Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung — who attempted and failed to pass IHRA in Vancouver in 2019 — she specifically calls for the definition, while “non-legally binding” to be shared with the Vancouver Police Board, Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver Park Board and Vancouver School Board. This appears to be a clear attempt to silence events, demonstrations and actions for Palestine in these public civic spaces, as well as to create an atmosphere of intimidation and silencing for Palestinian and Arab students.

We urge all supporters of justice in Vancouver to take action.

1. Register to speak at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 15. The meeting will begin at 9:30 am, although there is a full agenda. All requests to speak must be received before 8:30 am on Tuesday, November 15. You can speak via telephone or in person. Use this link to register to speak at the meeting. You can also register by sending n email to speaker.request@vancouver.ca. Indicate that your comment pertains to item B2, the IHRA motion. You can have 5 minutes to speak at the meeting.

2. Send Mayor Ken Sim and all members of Vancouver City Council an email. Use this form prepared by Independent Jewish Voices to urge all members of Council to vote NO on the IHRA definition.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers have already spoken up about the harms caused by the IHRA definition. As the Union of BC Indian Chiefs notes, “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.”

Read these statements here:

Some more important resources on the IHRA Definition:

We are republishing the statement below from the Canada Palestine Association. It’s time to make it clear: Vancouver says #NoIHRA!

CPA Statement:
Three and a half years ago, Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung introduced a motion to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. That motion in July 2019 was not passed; however, the same councillor recently gave notice to reintroduce a similar motion this month to the new Vancouver city council. She is now representing the ABC “A Better City” party that even included adoption of the IHRA definition in their platform. And since they won a majority in the recent civic elections, they seem to be rushing to vindicate themselves this time around.

Back in 2019, Vancouver was one of the first city councils where the pro-Israel lobby attempted to have the IHRA definition formally accepted. Many segments of the progressive and anti-racist community in Vancouver responded quickly and as already noted, the result was that the motion was not adopted. And all the reasons that were valid in 2019 are still valid in 2022, as evidence increases of how the IHRA definition is being used to silence Palestinian voices and criticism of Israel.

The IHRA definition was wrong then and it is wrong now. Passing it now at Vancouver city council will not change that nor will it change our determination as Palestinian Canadians to raise our voices against our oppression, and against anti-Palestinian racism and all those who maintain it. We will continue to speak out forcefully and reject the concept that our narrative must be constricted and restrained. If other communities are granted the right during discussions of discrimination to say: “Nothing about us without us”, then so are Palestinian Canadians. Or are we to be treated differently, like lesser beings?

Passing this anti-Palestinian definition will not deter us, but it will tarnish the reputation of the city of Vancouver. No longer can Vancouver promote itself as diverse and tolerant. Rather, it will be presented internationally as a city that callously engages in racism against vulnerable minorities (in this case the Palestinian, Arab and Moslem communities), a policy that could have negative implications on tourism and investment.

We join hands with many allies, from progressive Jews to anti-racist and human rights groups to church and union organizations, to say #NoIHRA. Adopting this dangerous and vague definition of anti-Semitism will only serve to harm the reputation of Vancouver as a welcoming city for all people.