CUPE 3907 Opposes the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

There is an international campaign underway to get governments, universities, and other institutions to adopt the IHRA definition. This definition has negatively impacted scholars and students in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, to name a few. In recent years, some of the world’s leading scholars and influential academics have been unfairly labelled as antisemitic because of their critique of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians. Among them, Black feminist scholar Angela Davis, American-based queer theorist Jasbir K. Puar, and prominent Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe.

Academic Issues 

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the product of a growing “new antisemitism movement” that seeks to redefine antisemitism to include any criticism of the Israeli state. While challenging antisemitism is vital, Canadian critics of the IHRA definition argue that the new language could “chill political expressions of criticism of Israel as well as support for Palestinian rights.”

The IHRA definition is vague. It fails to connect antisemitism to other forms of racism. The IHRA definition is being used to censor and undermine the important anti-racist and decolonial initiatives currently underway at universities across Canada.

If governments and universities adopt this definition, it will represent a direct attack on academic freedom, endangering our ability to engage in scholarship and teaching that explores facts and perspectives that are critical of the state of Israel.

For example, in 2020, two Ontario universities have been the site of false and destructive charges of antisemitism against respected international human rights scholars. In response, CAUT has initiated a process of censuring the University of Toronto. These attacks are but a small sample of documented cases, and they are deeply troubling for us as scholars and teachers.

BIRT CUPE 3907 unequivocally supports the academic freedom of its members. This freedom includes the right to pursue research and open inquiry in an honest search for knowledge that is free from institutional censorship, including that of the government. While CUPE 3907 opposes antisemitism and all forms of racism and hatred, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism poses a serious threat to academic freedom in our university. The IHRA definition of antisemitism misconstrues antisemitism to include a broad range of criticism of the State of Israel. The IHRA definition thus undermines important anti-racist and decolonial initiatives in Canadian educational institutions. It can also be used to censor political speech and restrict the academic freedom of teachers and researchers who have developed critical perspectives on the policies and practices of the State of Israel. Such targeted attacks will have a chilling effect on the academic freedom of our members in the classroom, in their research, and in campus politics more broadly.

For further information, please visit the website for the campaign opposing the IHRA definition of antisemitism in Canadian Universities and Colleges:

Other Resources:

IHRA Definition At Work by Independent Jewish Voices

Criticizing Israel is not antisemitic — it’s academic freedom

Palestinian rights and the IHRA definition of antisemitism

How the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is shielding Israel from criticism

The IHRA definition will not help fight anti-Semitism

New human rights order risks restricting criticism of Israel

Let’s keep our eyes focused on what anti-Semitism really is

Paid Sick Days

As the second wave of the pandemic hits Canada more and more workers are getting sick. But far too many workers don’t have paid sick days. 58% of all workers in Canada don’t have access to any paid sick days and for workers making $25,000 or less that number jumps to 70%. The lack of access to paid sick days disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, workers of colour and women workers. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is far from adequate and is the wrong approach to addressing the health of workers and the public. An effective response to the pandemic is for the government to legislate employer-paid sick days. This is a question of good public health policy as well as a matter of racial and gender justice. Every worker during and after the pandemic should be able to access paid sick days. This is a draft motion you can put forward at your union or other organization calling on the government to legislate employer-paid sick days for all.

Whereas eleven months into a global pandemic that has killed thousands, no government in Canada has legislated adequate, employer-paid sick days; and

Whereas the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is temporary, inaccessible and not of use for the crucial first few days of an illness;

Whereas had paid sick day legislation been in place before the global pandemic, lives would have been saved because infection rates would have been reduced; and

Whereas the lack of legislated paid sick days has especially hurt Black, Indigenous, workers of colour and women workers who are over-represented in frontline jobs, with low pay, few benefits, and without the ability to work from home;

Be it resolved that CUPE 3907 supports the Decent Work and Health Network call for seven (7) permanent, paid sick days for all workers and an additional fourteen (14) days during public health outbreaks;

BIRT CUPE 3907 endorse the principles outlined by the Decent Work and Health Network:

  • Universal: Available to all workers regardless of workplace size, type of work, or immigration status. Legislated, with no exemptions.
  • Paid: Fully paid to ensure workers are not financially penalized for following public health advice.
  • Adequate: At least seven (7) paid sick days provided on a permanent basis, with an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.
  • Permanent: Available during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Accessible: No barriers to access. Prohibit employers from requiring sick notes; ensure no disruption of income or unnecessary applications; and provide sufficiently flexible leave that reflects the reality of workers’ lives, healthcare needs, and caregiving responsibilities.

BIRT the CUPE 3907 oppose further public subsidies for corporations like Amazon, Walmart, and Loblaws that are profiting from the pandemic and who should be implementing employer-paid sick days and raising wages;

BIRT the CUPE 3907 work with CUPE ON to actively lobby provincial and federal government representatives to introduce and pass paid sick days legislation;

BIRT the CUPE 3907 host a phone zap event and other similar events that encourage members to be involved in campaigns for paid sick days.