During last week’s regular city council meeting, Westmount’s city council voted to accept Councillor Mary Gallery’s motion that the city adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism. As opposed to last week’s surprising and painful moment when City Opposition leader Lionel Perez chose to withdraw a similar motion after Montreal’s Mayor Plante said that she believes the issue required “more examination in committee,” the Westmount motion said that the city is “dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination in all of its forms.”

As opposed to the fact that Plante’s hesitation may have cost her hundreds, if not thousands of votes during next year’s civic election, Westmount’s Mayor Christina Smith wrote that “on the occasion of (the) Auschwitz Liberation and International Holocaust Remembrance day, Westmount wanted to meaningfully commit itself to countering anti-Semitism today.”

Perez said that the IHRA definition provided both the city and successive administrations with a working definition of anti-Semitism “that can be used to define, and fight the rising tide of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes in the city.”

“Words are important,” said Perez.

While he continues to believe that the Holocaust began when people stopped paying attention to what was being said and done to German Jews on the street before Hitler opened the death camps, he also said that “as elected officials, we must act to see that it never happens again.”

Aside from the 31 nations (including Canada) that have already accepted the IHRA definition — Westmount is the second Canadian municipality – after Ontario’s Vaughan Township – to have accepted the IHRA definition as public policy. Toronto did adopt a motion last year that the city would mark January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day as the United Nations does.

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