Vancouver City Council adopts anti-Palestinian IHRA definition

On November 16, despite strong and diverse opposition, Vancouver City Council adopted the dangerous and divisive IHRA definition. The IHRA is designed to “chill” speech on Palestine and institutionalizes anti-Palestinian racism.

Canada Palestine Association (CPA), a member of the Canadian BDS Coalition, is grateful for all the speakers who took the time to express their opposition to the IHRA in front of council before the vote. They represented the best of Vancouver and showed that our voices will not be silenced. #NoIHRA


Several Palestinians addressed the council, including CPA Chair Hanna Kawas.

An open letter was also sent to the Vancouver Mayor and Councillors the day after the motion was passed. (Full text bellow)

“Council should know that their lack of due diligence or intentional disinformation is at the expense of the inalienable rights of a whole nation and desecrates the memory of our dispossessed Palestinian parents and grandparents.”

Open Letter to Vancouver Mayor and Councillors:

On November 16, Vancouver City Council officially institutionalized anti-Palestinian racism by adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. This happened despite overwhelming opposition from a broad cross-section of your constituents, including progressive Jews, indigenous leaders, human rights groups and Palestinians.

I was one of the speakers who addressed council before the vote (52:48 min. into the video). I was shocked that the author of the motion, who asked me a question after my presentation, claimed that she was not aware of illustrative example #7 that I (and others who followed me) referenced. This is all the more astounding given that Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung had introduced this motion twice, in 2019 and 2022, and specifically mentioned in her motion “THAT the City of Vancouver adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism and list of illustrative examples..”

However, she still attempted to discredit my presentation by saying: “I have the illustrative examples in front of me, and I am just looking through to find the one you are referencing that speaks of it a racist endeavour and I can not find it … I can’t see any language that speaks to it being a racist endeavour or similar to what you are describing…” (59:30 min. into the video…I was frankly flabbergasted, but I promised council to supply them with the example and here is a screenshot of it, taken from the very link included in Kirby-Yung’s motion.)

Are we to believe that when she presented this motion both times that she did not read nor comprehend what was in the motion? Was she just woefully misinformed or was there another agenda behind this motion? The whole process speaks volumes about the procedure that unfolded and the callous disregard for truth, compassion, or decency. Council should know that their lack of due diligence or intentional disinformation is at the expense of the inalienable rights of a whole nation and desecrates the memory of our dispossessed Palestinian parents and grandparents.

Several councillors mentioned in their closing comments before the vote that international affairs is not in their mandate, but they were supporting the motion because their sole concern was with Vancouver affairs. This didn’t stop Mayor Ken Sim though, in his tweet immediately following the passing of the motion, from saying: “We are proud to stand with the Jewish community both in Vancouver and around the world.” So it seems the global approach can be embraced when politically advantageous…such hypocrisy will not go unnoticed.

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung got the highest number of votes among councillors in the recent 2022 election. I lament the 72,545 Vancouverites that voted for her, and I mourn the city of Vancouver that has institutionalized anti-Palestinian racism.

As I stated in my presentation, we “will not be silenced nor intimidated; we will always fight back against such racism to preserve our dignity and human and national rights.” We will expose Vancouver City Council’s racism locally, nationally and internationally; our first actions will be to put you on the Canadian BDS Coalition “Shame List” and to also inform the anti-racist community of this infamy.

Hanna Kawas
Chairperson, Canada Palestine Association

Read more  on the Canada Palestine Association website.

Read more about the original motion and statements provided to the City of Vancouver Council.

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