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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Ontario MPP proposes Jewish Heritage Month

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Mike Colle

TORONTO — Ontario Liberal MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence Mike Colle wants May declared Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario.

On Nov. 30, Colle moved a private members’ bill at Queen’s Park – the Jewish Heritage Month Act – that he said would, if passed, offer Ontarians an opportunity to “recognize the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Ontario’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric.”

The bill already has all-party support. It was co-sponsored by New Democratic Party MPP for Parkdale-High Park, Cheri DiNovo, and Conservative MPP for Thornhill, Peter Shurman.

Colle, in a statement on his website, said May was chosen because it is “a significant month for the Jewish Canadian community. Various Jewish artistic and cultural events such as the UJA Walk for Israel, Toronto Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Music Week occur in May. Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day also frequently occur in May.”

The bill is slated to come up for debate in early 2012.

Speaking to The CJN after he put forward the bill, Colle said the impetus behind drafting the bill stemmed from the proclamation of June being Ontario’s Italian Heritage Month when Bill 103, the Italian Heritage Month Act, received royal assent in the legislature last October.

Shurman was also a co-sponsor of this bill.

“I thought we should do something to celebrate all the contributions that came from the Jewish community,” Colle said.

Asked if these bills could open the door for controversy if other communities want to have their own months of recognition, Colle said there are already months dedicated to other groups, including a Chinese Heritage Month, as well as the Italian Heritage Month.

“If they’re done in the vein of inclusivity and social harmony… I’m approaching this as we will celebrate and honour any group that’s made a positive contribution to Ontario. We don’t want to limit anyone,” he said.

He said he envisions Jewish Heritage Month as a way to educate all of Ontario’s children about the Jewish community.

Colle said he’d consulted with his many of his Jewish constituents about this for the past year and received “overwhelming” support from them for the idea.

David Spiro, Greater Toronto co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), commended Colle on the bill. 

“The Jewish community has a long, distinguished heritage in this province spanning well over 200 years. More than half of our country’s 360,000 Jewish Canadians live in Ontario. We are proud of the role our community has played in the province’s history, and will continue working with Ontarians of all backgrounds to help ensure that Ontario remains a great home for future generations,” he said in a statement. 

“We hope that, through our varied programs and events, Jewish Heritage Month will be meaningful not only for the Jewish community, but for all the people of Ontario.”

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