Over a number of years, I have closely worked with a number of antiracist groups, including the League for Human Rights of B'nai B'rith Canada, in combatting different hate mongers, organizations, and individuals, who used a twisted interpretation of the "freedom of speech" to promote their homophobic, antisemitic, Islamophobic or anti-Native prejudices.
Recently B'nai B'rith, the oldest Jewish human rights organization in Canada, established in 1875, has released its 2012 Audit of Anti-Semitism in the country, which was presented to the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, and others, revealing the disturbing trend of the rise of overt antisemitism in Canada over the past few years.
It disclosed that the number of incidents, reported and carefully verified by the league, has steadily increased from 584 cases in 2003 to 1,297 in 2011, and again to 1,345 in 2012. It added that the verified incidents probably represented "a fraction of the victims", many of whom might have been afraid to report them.
While reading the report, I thought that we must be fortunate here in the Lower Mainland to have been spared such ugly occurrences. But my happiness was cut short last week when I read in a North Shore newspaper about an unprecedented outburst of overt antisemitism made in public by a City of North Vancouver councillor during a debate about a taxation dispute with the Port Metro Vancouver.
It is hard to believe, but Coun. Rod Clark used the opportunity to vent his unhappiness by refusing to be "Jewed down" on the taxes owed. In other words, Port Metro Vancouver is acting like "Jews" who, according to him, do not pay what they owe!
To make things worse, when asked to apologize, he explained that "it is a commonly used term".
It is entirely possible that I have been privileged since I arrived in Canada, some 40 years ago, but in dealing with thousands of people, businessmen, politicians, doctors and engineers, simple folks, academics, or farmers, I have never heard this expression used before, even once.
On the other hand it is also entirely possible that among some of Clark's friends and acquaintances, anti-Jewish slurs, and probably against other ethnic groups, are part of their vocabulary, or, as he explained it, "commonly used terms".
I do not know and I do not care what they do and say in the privacy of their homes or clubs.
What I care is to find out, sooner rather than later, when will Clark be booted off city council. Politicians who make racist and bigoted statements should not be part of any elected body in a democratic and civilized society.
And, as a final thought, perhaps Clark, along with his two children, should make a point of visiting the Vancouver Holocaust Centre and ask to meet some of the Holocaust survivors, many old and frail, but who will surely tell them that this is the way the massacre of six million Jews started: using anti-Semitic slurs, followed by others who acted to implement the message of hate.
Jack Chivo is a retired journalist living in West Vancouver.