Bill proposes Ontario make May Jewish heritage month

This May could be Ontario’s first Jewish Heritage Month if a bill being debated in the house today is passed.

Bill 17, presented today at Queen’s Park by Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle and co-sponsored by Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman and Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo, will designate May as a time to honour the significant achievements of Jewish Canadians across Ontario.

“That month is so full of particularly poignant anniversaries for Jewish people,” Mr. Shurman said yesterday. “It’s when they mark the Holocaust, Israeli Independence Day ... This will be a time to mark Jewish contributions to life in Ontario.”

Bill 17 is one of several bills that have been introduced recently to recognize particularly prominent communities in the province, he said.

“I was happy to jump on board, because we have significant bigger Jewish community compared to any other part of Ontario. If they’re going to pass a bill honouring Jews, then Thornhill should be a part of it.”

Mr. Shurman recalled days when Jews needn’t bother to apply to big corporations of Ontario; they would not be hired. It’s why so many today are professionals or business owners.

“They simply couldn’t get a job,” he said.

That’s the sort of history and culture that could be exposed during a heritage month, along with community festivals, expositions and other events, he said.

Mr. Shurman, a Progressive Conservative, also joined with a Liberal and NDP politician to co-sponsor the recently passed Italian heritage month bill (to be held in June). May is also South Asian Heritage Month.

“There’s been a growth in these non-partisan bills,” he said. “I think we will see more of these. We don’t want to go overboard but we want to recognize these significant builders of our community.”

Representatives from B’nai Brith and United Jewish Appeal took part in a press conference yesterday announcing the bill and are expected to begin plans for accentuating and highlighting Jewish heritage in the coming months.

Ontario is home to approximately 200,000 Jewish Canadians.


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