Newly released police data shows that Jews were once again the most targeted group for hate crimes in both Toronto and York Region in 2019.
These numbers are consistent with what was recently reported in B’nai Brith Canada’s 2019 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, which found an alarming 62.8 percent increase in the number of incidents in Ontario compared to the previous year.
To counter this, B’nai Brith has adopted an eight-point plan to tackle antisemitism which lies at the heart of Jew hatred and hate crimes.
The plan includes education, strategic lawsuits against public participation or “anti-SLAPP” legislation in all provinces and enhanced training for hate crime officers.
While the plan mentions a zero-tolerance approach to government funding of antisemitism, it does not hit hard enough on actual hate-filled events that take place on the ground.
I spoke with Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada who says that the eight-point plan is “to tackle racism in Canada as a whole.” He also said that “antisemitism is a malleable form of hatred,” so it’s hard to pin down.
Some members of the Jewish community in Canada agree with this and want more elaboration on what hate crimes constitute.
Barbara Kay, a renowned Canadian journalist tells me, “When I see the words ‘hate crimes,’ I always want to see some elaboration. How many are property crimes? Of them, how many are simple vandalism like paint or a broken window, and how many are more threatening, like destruction of symbols such as Torah scrolls or ripped prayer shawls, etc.?”
However, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center takes a more direct approach. “Canada should denounce the serial Holocaust denial and Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime. Al-Quds Day, made up by the thugs in Tehran, is not a religious holiday but a convenient excuse to demonize the Jewish state and her Zionist supporters,” Cooper said. “That’s not free speech, that’s targeting an entire people! No more permits in Canada for al-Quds Day rallies that openly call for slaughter of Jews.”
That hate against the Jewish community is real and is something Jordan Cohen of Temple Anshe Sholom in Hamilton, Ontario has experienced. He says, “Hamilton is ground zero for hate crime in Canada.”
Cohen also told me that there are about five or six white supremacist groups operating in the Hamilton area where the three synagogues have been targets of hate mail and graffiti.
“It happens so often that I am on a first name basis with the detective who heads up the hate crime unit of the Hamilton Police services,” Cohen says.
In Canada, the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement and anti-Israel apartheid week events are common across university campuses.
Last year, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted the BDS movement as antisemitic, contrary to “Canadian values” and accused it of intimidating Jewish students on university campuses. However, they continue to take place under the banner of “free speech.”
Randi Skurka, a writer and activist against antisemitism, says,”I believe that the constant barrage of anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric on our campuses and beyond over the last two decades has contributed to the uptick in anti-Jewish violence and vandalism.
“An entire generation of young people — our future leaders — has grown up bombarded by hateful rhetoric in the guise of ‘human rights’ that demonizes Israel and Jews. This, in turn, has emboldened antisemites from both sides of the political spectrum to brazenly perpetrate attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.”
Skurka says, “It is imperative to educate all students and all communities with facts to counter the mistruths about the Arab-Israeli conflict that often lead to antisemitism. Education is the road to peace.”
Everyone agrees that education is very important, but they would like the Canadian government to take more active steps in stemming the tide of hatred being taught against the Jews and Israel.
Vivienne Grace Ziner, president Urban Quest Inc. comments, “This is no surprise for the Jewish community … We know of campaigns designed to denigrate and ‘blame’ us for anything and everything; we know, but what is the government going to do to deal with this honestly, without apologizing for doing so, for calling out real racism and fomented hatred?”
Irving Weisdorf, founding CEO at The Mozuud Freedom Foundation says, “I’m afraid to say, but I think you know, that certain elements in the Islamic world are so opposed to losing even a sliver of land that was once under Muslim rule that they are willing to push the world to another genocide.
“The Iranian regime is perhaps the most dangerous, but others are just as filled with hatred. And they are pouring billions of dollars and organizational resources into anti-Jewish/anti-Zionist propaganda. This all feeds seamlessly into the social Marxism that has been promoted by the media and academic elites.
“On the fringes are a few leftover white supremacists, but the driving force comes from within the world Islamic community. Of course, intersectionality plays into it as well, and we know that Black Lives Matter has turned antisemitic.”