by Steve McDonald
(September 2019) – This column represents my last as a member of CIJA’s professional staff. After nearly a decade of serving our community through CIJA, I will begin a new role as Vice President, Communications and Marketing, at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto in September.
I never imagined I would be capable of feeling excitement (at the new opportunity) and sadness (at leaving CIJA) all at once. While I am leaving CIJA, CIJA in so many ways is not leaving me. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work on behalf of Jewish Canadians on the issues that affect our collective future. And I am pleased to share one of the last projects that I had the honour to be a part of: CIJA’s Federal Election Guide.
As the non-partisan advocacy agent of Canada’s Jewish Federations, CIJA cannot be involved in partisan political activities. However, CIJA can and does mobilize Jewish Canadians to exercise their democratic rights. As a part of this effort for this fall’s election, we have published a policy guide to highlight some of the issues that impact our community – with the goal of empowering grassroots activists to make an even greater impact.
This year’s Election Guide (which may be found at cija.ca/election43) is a great conversation-starter for those who wish to connect with their local candidates. It addresses policy proposals across a range of topics. To name just five, this includes:
- Combating antisemitism. Given the global rise in antisemitism, we are urging the federal government to devote resources to police hate crime units, provide financial support to help places of worship and day schools offset the costs of security personnel, and implement a national strategy on online hate and radicalization.
- Supporting Israelis. We are advocating for MPs from all parties to stand with Israelis – our close democratic allies – when Israel is threatened by terrorism or singled out in discriminatory votes at the UN. We are also calling on the government to expand research and innovation ties between Canada and Israel.
- Tax amendments to strengthen communities. We are calling for tax credits to recognize the value of volunteering for charities and help parents offset the costs of children’s overnight summer camp.
- Make Canada more accessible for people with disabilities. We are advocating for federal investments in affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities, as well as reforms to the Disability Tax Credit to make it more inclusive and accessible.
- Countering terrorism and the Iranian threat. We are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into Canadians and global terrorism, with a focus on providing support for Canadian victims of overseas terrorism and holding accountable Canadians who have travelled overseas to join terror groups. We are also urging the government to ensure diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime are not renewed until there are concrete improvements in Iran’s behaviour.
These are just a few examples of our multi-faceted policy agenda. I encourage you to visit cija.ca/election43 to read the Guide. My hope is that it will inspire you to get involved in the election and engage your local candidates.
As I close this column, I thank you if you have read (and I hope enjoyed!) my columns in this publication over the years. As someone who has met with and supported grassroots activists from Halifax to Victoria – and so many places in between – I have seen firsthand that ours is an extraordinary community.
I can also testify to the unparalleled work our team at CIJA performs – tirelessly and often with little fanfare – on behalf of our community and our cause. Because of their diligent and strategic efforts, our community has a strong voice where it matters. I invite you to be a part of that voice by becoming actively involved with CIJA.
Steve McDonald is Director, Policy and Strategic Communications, at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)