B'nai Brith Canada

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B'nai Brith Canada
Formation 1875
Type NGO
Legal status Active
Purpose Advocacy, Education, Network, Social Work
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Location
  • 15 Hove St.
Region served Canada
Membership 4,000 members[1]
Official language English, French
CEO Michael Mostyn
Parent organization B'nai B'rith International
Website www.bnaibrith.ca

B'nai Brith Canada (BBC) (English pronunciation: /bəˌn ˈbrɪθ/, from Hebrew: בני בריתb'né brit, "Children of the Covenant"),[2] is the Canadian section of B'nai B'rith (the Canadian organization uses no apostrophe in "B'rith"), the oldest Jewish service organization in the world. It is committed to the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and combating antisemitism and bigotry.

Mission[edit]

The Mission of B'nai Brith Canada, as stated in the preamble to its constitution:

B'nai Brith has taken upon itself the mission of uniting person of the Jewish faith in the work of promoting their highest interest and those of humanity; of developing and elevating the mental and moral character of the people of our faith; of inculcating the purest principles of philanthropy, honour and patriotism; of supporting science and art; alleviating the wants of the poor and needy; visiting and caring for the sick; coming to the rescue of the victims of persecution; providing for, protecting and assisting the aged, the widow and the orphan on the broadest principles of humanity.[3]

Early History[edit]

B’nai Brith Canada has had a presence in this country since its earliest days, with roots stretching back to 1875. It is Canadian Jewry’s most senior human rights advocacy organization and is the only national independent voice speaking out on behalf of grassroots Jewish Canadians.

In 1875, Lodge No. 246 was the first lodge founded in Toronto Canada, followed soon after by another in Montreal. Many community leaders were associated with these lodges. Over time, a team of dedicated volunteers and professional staff engaged in combating antisemitism, bigotry and racism in Canada and abroad in addition to wide-ranging educational and social programming, community and volunteer services, and human initiatives. These and other activities undertaken are meant to reflect the organization’s commitment to “People Helping People.”[4]

Just as B’nai Brith has grown and evolved over the years in order to respond to the particular needs of the time, so has Canadian Jewry undergone many transformations. Throughout, B’nai Brith has consistently employed its successful advocacy model of strong community, results-oriented grassroots activism.

20th Century to Present[edit]

In the first two decades of the 20th century B'nai B'rith launched three of today's major Jewish organizations: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Hillel and BBYO (originally B'nai B'rith Youth Organization). Later they would take on a life of their own with varying degrees of autonomy.

In January 2004, Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association, filed a formal complaint against B'nai Brith Canada under the "discriminatory signs and statements" section of the Manitoba Human Rights Code. After speaking with several people who attended a Winnipeg conference on terrorism hosted by B'nai Brith Canada in October 2003, she wrote that the event was biased against Muslims and would encourage the response teams in attendance to engage in racial profiling. The Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MHRC) accepted the complaint and began an investigation that would last five years. In 2009, the MHRC issued a report that dismissed the complaint due to a lack of evidence.[5] MHRC vice-chairwoman Yvonne Peters subsequently wrote that "the full investigation of the complaint that took place was warranted" and that "the decision was based solely on the insufficiency of the evidence with respect to this particular section of the Human Rights Code."[5][6]

In 2008, David Matas, B'nai Brith's senior counsel, sharply criticized the MHRC for its conduct during the investigation, stating that:

"The [Manitoba] Human Rights Commission itself is supposed to be promoting human rights, but in our view in this process it's violating some pretty basic rights: a secret proceeding, a faceless accuser, failure to disclose documents. These are basic procedural rights that are being violated."[6]

Writing in the National Post, Joseph Brean made several criticisms of the investigation:

  • The MHRC accepted the complaint despite the fact that the complainant, Shahina Siddiqui, did not actually attend the event.
  • B'nai Brith Canada was never told of the identity of the individuals whose claims Shahina Siddiqui based her complaint on.
  • It has never been revealed what exactly is alleged to have been said at the conference.
  • MHRC investigator, Tracy Lloyd, spoke with seven anonymous witnesses, including one as late as November 2006. However, only one, a city of Winnipeg employee, shared Siddiqui's criticism that the conference was "one-sided." One of the witnesses, a diversity relations officer, stated that it was "pretty professional," and said police in general are capable of putting almost anything they hear into proper context.
  • The MHRC commissioned a "secret expert report" but refused B'nai Brith's request to know the expert's identity, mandate or material provided. The secret report has still not been made public.[5][6]

Following the release of the MHRC report, Matas accused MHRC vice-chairwoman Yvonne Peters of taking a contradictory position, stating that:

"So what they're saying is that a full investigation is warranted even when there's no evidence, as long as the accusation is within the jurisdiction of the board. There's a lot of problems with this. What basically happened is that Siddiqui heard a rumour. She makes a complaint, as a result of which the commission goes on a five-year fishing expedition. They don't find anything. We're co-operating with them. And then they dismiss the complaint. That's not a proper procedure, in my view."[5]

Matas also criticized the procedures of the MHRC, stating that they will "take an allegation, without evidence, and just run with it to see if it's true." The previous year, Matas in a submission in a Moon Report on Internet hate speech, Matas charged that Canada's human rights commissions have demonstrated "a disastrous combination of investigative zeal and substantive ignorance." Although Matas stated that he does not believe Siddiqui acted in bad faith, he added that:

"The people who run these procedures have to have a more objective viewpoint than the people who make the complaint."[5]

In 2007, a group calling itself Concerned Members of B’nai Brith Canada charged that a new constitution had been passed despite a majority of members having voted against it at a general meeting. Henry Gimpel, a former Toronto lodge president, told The Forward that "[t]here’s too much of [B’nai Brith Canada] being run by one person.”[1] Frank Dimant, CEO of BBC, responded to the criticism over the constitution by saying that BBC followed proper governance procedures and that B'nai Brith International's Court of Appeal determined that the constitution was properly enacted. Gimpel and seven other BBC members were expelled in June 2008 for what a disciplinary committee determined to be "conduct unbecoming a member." Gimpel referred to the committee as a kangaroo court.[7]

In July 2009, B'nai Brith Canada issued a press release[8] denouncing Carleton University for hiring Hassan Diab, who was alleged by French authorities to have been responsible for the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. Diab was living under virtual house arrest at the time (he had been granted bail but under very strict conditions) due to an extradition request from France. Diab, who has denied any involvement with the synagogue bombing, has not been convicted of any crime. Within a few hours of the B'nai Brith Canada complaint, Carleton University announced that it would “immediately replace the current instructor, Hassan Diab" in order to provide students “with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning.” B’nai Brith executive vice-president Frank Dimant later stated that "the university did the right thing.”[9]

On November 9, 2009, B'nai Brith Canada ran a full page ad in the National Post comparing radical Islam with Nazism. Frank Dimant, CEO of B'nai Brith, said "overall, feedback from the ad has been very positive." At the same time, the ad drew the ire of the group Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims.[10]

In 2014, two-time Conservative Party of Canada federal election candidate Michael Mostyn was appointed CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, succeeding Frank Dimant upon his retirement after 36 years with the organization.

Members[edit]

According to an article in The Forward, B'nai Brith Canada had 4,000 full-dues paying members in 2007.[1] At one time, the organization was struggling financially and mortgaged its head office in order to raise $850,000 to meet expenses.[1]

Publications[edit]

B'nai Brith Canada owns and operates the weekly Jewish Tribune as a subsidiary publication.[11] The newspaper claims a circulation of over 62,000 copies a week which would make it the largest Jewish publication in Canada.[12]

Initiatives[edit]

Hezbollah terror designation[edit]

On November 29, 2002, B'nai Brith Canada sued the Canadian government for "failing to crack down on the fundraising efforts of Hezbollah", by not adding Hezbollah's charity wing to the list of banned terrorist organizations; the military wing of Hezbollah was already listed, but not the entire organization.[13] About a week later, Canada made the decision to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.[citation needed]

Anti-Hate Hotline[edit]

B'nai Brith Canada operates a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day a week 'Anti-Hate Hotline'. The hotline receives calls from those who feel they have suffered from antisemitism or discrimination and is one of the sources of the organisation's statistics for its Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-892-BNAI (2624).

Agencies and Programs of B'nai Brith[14][edit]

Centre for Community Action
Affordable Housing
Community Volunteer Service Programs
League for Human Rights
24-hour, 7-day-a-week Anti-Hate Hotline
Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents
Institute for International Affairs
Canadian Israel Public Affairs Committee (CIPAC)
Government Relations Office
National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research
Operation Thank You: Educational Initiative Honouring Canadian Troops in Afghanistan
Communications Department
Legal Desk
Campus Outreach Program
Young Leadership Development Groups
Network of B'nai Brith Lodges
Sports Leagues
Jewish Canada Information Service
Alzheimer's Residence, Toronto

Awards[edit]

It was on B'nai Brith Canada's recommendation that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was awarded B'nai B'rith International's Presidential Gold Medal to honor what it described as his commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.[15]

Award-winning film producer Robert Lantos has been a long-time supporter of B'nai Brith Canada and in 2008 was awarded the organization's Award of Merit.[16] Among the other Canadian notables to have received the Award of Merit of B'nai Brith Canada are Lindsay Gordon, Blake Goldring, Frank Stronach, Tony Comper, Al Waxman, Wallace McCain, Lloyd Axworthy, Mayor Jean Drapeau, George Cohon, Leo Kolber, former Liberal Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin, hockey legend Jean Béliveau, Paul Tellier, former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, Ambassador Allan Gotlieb, Monty Hall, Surjit Babra and Walter Arbib, Izzy Asper, Guy Charbonneau, former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Herb Gray, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, Edward Samuel "Ted" Rogers, former Alberta Premier Ernest Manning, and Calin Rovinescu.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d B’nai Brith Canada Faces Revolt, The Forward
  2. ^ Sara E. Karesh, Mitchell M. Hurvitz (2006). Encyclopedia of Judaism. Infobase Publishing. p. 61. 
  3. ^ Selick, Abel (1964). History of B'nai B'rith in Eastern Canada. Montreal: Apex Press Limited. p. 118. 
  4. ^ Selick, Abel (1964). History of B'nai B'rith in Eastern Canada. Montreal: Apex Press Limited. p. 118. 
  5. ^ a b c d e 'No basis' for B'nai Brith hate charge by Joseph Brean, National Post, March 12, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c B'nai Brith accused of hate speech by Joseph Brean, August 29, 2008.
  7. ^ Paul Lungen, "B’nai Brith expels members for ‘conduct unbecoming’", Canadian Jewish News
  8. ^ B’nai Brith Canada raises the alarm over Carleton’s reinstatement of alleged synagogue bomber (Canada), B'nai Brith Canada. July 28, 2009.
  9. ^ B’nai Brith complaint preceded university’s job withdrawal, Edmonton Journal
  10. ^ "B’nai Brith ad raises survivors’ ire", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 12, 2009
  11. ^ Jewish Tribune
  12. ^ Jewish Tribune circulation
  13. ^ B'nai Brith Sues Canadian Government Over Hezbollah, CTV News
  14. ^ B'nai Brith Canada
  15. ^ Prime Minister Stephen Harper awarded B’nai Brith Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism (Canada)
  16. ^ Robert Lantos receives B'nai Brith Canada's Award of Merit (Canada)
  • Tulchinsky, Gerald. Taking Root: The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community. Toronto, Ont: Lester Pub., 1992.
  • Abella, Irving. A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada. Toronto: Lester Pub., 1990.

External links[edit]