On February 23, 2012, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 17, making the month of May Jewish Heritage Month in the Province. The legislation received strong cross-party support, being introduced by Liberal MPP Mike Colle as a private member’s bill with co-sponsorship from Peter Shurman of the Progressive Conservative Party and Cheri DiNovo of the NDP.
This Bill recognizes and honours the significant contributions of Jewish Canadians to the social, economic, political and cultural fabric across Ontario for more than two centuries. The Jewish community has worked side-by-side with Ontarians from all backgrounds to help build this province, and their continued involvement has supported and enhanced the diverse multicultural mosaic that makes Ontario a place envied around the world.
May was chosen because it is an important month for the Jewish Canadian community. Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day frequently occur in May depending on the lunar calendar, and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Music Week are annual May events.
Canada has the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, exceeded only by Israel, the United States, and France. More than half of this country’s 360,000 Jewish Canadians live in Ontario.
Renowned Canadians of Jewish Heritage include:
Rosalie Abella, Supreme Court Justice
Dave Barrett, former Premier of British Columbia
Leonard Cohen, musician and poet
David Croll, first Jewish senator
Drake, hip hop artist and actor
Lew Hayman, Toronto Argonauts & Montreal Alouettes coach
Naomi Klein, Activist
Stephen Lewis, Former Leader of the Ontario NDP, United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Anne Michaels, poet and novelist
Peter C. Newman, journalist
Nathan Phillips, Mayor of Toronto
Louis Rasminsky, Order of Canada, 3rd Governor Bank of Canada
Mordecai Richler, author, screenwriter and essayist
William Shatner, actor and director
Miriam Waddington, poet