Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A History of Antisemitism in Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A History of Antisemitism in Canada

Article excerpt

Ira Robinson, A History of Antisemitism in Canada (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015), 300 pp. Paper. $31.19. ISBN 978-1-77112-166-8.

The Canadian Jewish community dates back to the mid-eighteenth century. In this disturbing book Robinson explores the history of the anti-Semitism it has experienced in both Anglophone and Francophone Canada from the earliest settlement to the present day.

Robinson begins with a brief discussion of the origins of the term anti-Semitism followed by a brief history of the Jewish communities of medieval and early modern France and England. He then traces the emergence of the Canadian Jewish community in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both Jews and Protestants were excluded from French Canada. This changed after the British conquest of French Canada in 1759. Some of the earliest British settlers in post-conquest Quebec were Jewish merchants. Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century Canada's Jewish community remained very small, not exceeding 1,000 in Quebec and Ontario until the 1861 Canadian census. Anti-Semitism remained at a relatively low level until the late nineteenth century notwithstanding for example some privately expressed anti-Jewish sentiment recorded by the R.G. Dun credit-rating company.

Robinson suggests anti-Semitism began to intensify after 1867 as the Jewish community expanded significantly in size with an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe. Montreal was at that time Canada's largest city and thus it attracted a large proportion of these migrants. The migrants mostly chose to learn English and send their children to Anglophone Protestant schools. This led to a backlash from French Canadian nationalists who had adopted the anti-Semitic ideology associated with a French reactionary Roman Catholic intellectual movement. …

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