On May 9, Ontario’s provincial election campaign went into full swing in anticipation of Election Day on June 7. The campaign provides many opportunities to engage with local candidates seeking support at community events or the front door.
When you meet a candidate, it is important for them to hear from the Jewish community. By combining our voices, we are more likely to be heard. After consultation with grassroots community members, Jewish agencies, organizations and institutions, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has identified several key issues for discussion with your local candidate during this election campaign.
Although most Ontarians reject all forms of hatred, anti-Semitism nevertheless persists at the margins. The working definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) now serves as an international standard and has been adopted by governments around the world, including Canada. The government of Ontario, law enforcement, and other provincial agencies should also adopt the IHRA definition and use it to identify and address anti-Semitic incidents.
Despite the important steps taken to address accessibility and inclusion in affordable housing programs, the needs of individuals with disabilities are still often overlooked as governments attempt to address the broader challenges of poverty. This shortfall is particularly acute for those with developmental disabilities and, to counteract it, the Ontario government should earmark five per cent of the affordable housing budget to support people with developmental disabilities.
According to Statistics Canada, the Jewish community is the religious minority most frequently targeted for hate crimes, many of which target places of worship, religious schools, and community centres. Along with other groups at risk, we collectively spend millions every year protecting users of our respective community facilities. The Ontario government should, therefore, provide funding for training community institution staff and funds to cover half the costs of hiring paid-duty police officers.
When Canadians and Israelis work together, both countries benefit. This is certainly true for Ontario, which has fostered extensive trade, academic, technology, and healthcare ties with Israel. The government of Ontario has hired a trade representative based in Tel Aviv and announced its intention to open a permanent trade office in Israel. The next provincial government should move forward with these plans to open an Ontario trade office in Israel.
Until recently, Canadians who underwent potentially lifesaving genetic testing could be compelled by insurance companies or employers to disclose their results, a policy that exposed many – including Jewish women of European descent more likely to carry the BRCA marker connected with ovarian and breast cancer – to potential denial of employment opportunities or insurance coverage. While a federal law was recently passed banning genetic discrimination, the bill is currently before the courts. It is therefore crucial that the next Legislative Assembly act to protect Ontarians from genetic discrimination.
Talking about these issues with your local candidate will ensure Jewish community priorities are understood and appreciated when the next government of Ontario is formed. So make sure to get out and engage with candidates – and enjoy what’s surely an exciting election season!