Hate symbols, bomb threats, death threats: Concerns about increase in antisemitism in Canada

Police across Canada are reporting a rise in antisemitic incidents, from vandalism to death threats and other forms of intimidation

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Police across Canada are reporting a rise in antisemitic incidents, from vandalism to death threats and other forms of intimidation.

This week, Ottawa police charged three people with mischief after they allegedly spray-painted hate symbols on the walls of a parking garage in the city’s downtown core.

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The charges arrived the same week police investigated an anonymous bomb threat made against the Ottawa Jewish Community School, a private school for students from Junior Kindergarten through to Grade 8.

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A police spokesperson said since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched an attack on Israel, there have been 29 “hate-motivated incidents” in Ottawa, with 24 considered criminal.

“Investigators believe that the majority of the 29 reported hate-incidents in Ottawa are somewhat linked to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza area,” the spokesperson said, adding that a number of these incidents are still being investigated.

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In central Ontario, Orillia OPP are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect or suspects behind threatening messages spray-painted onto a residence in the village of Washago.

Police say antisemitic messages were spray-painted on the garage doors of the residence on Oct. 28. Three days later, at the same residence, a second incident was reported with new threatening antisemitic messages.

The Jewish couple who live in the home said they noticed two unknown men on their property last month, peering inside and taking photos of mezuzah, a traditional Jewish religious symbol, on their front door.

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The men reportedly fled the area when they noticed people were home. In addition to the graffiti, a letter was also left taped to the couple’s garbage bin, stating “You and your Jewish family are going to die!”

“Never once did I ever imagine something like that happening here. The fact that it happened in small-town Ontario, that tells me it will happen anywhere,” Ryan Merovitz told CTV.

Police have also reported a 132 per cent increase in hate-related calls in Toronto since Oct. 7. According to Toronto police chief Myron Demkiw, there were 15 antisemitic incidents and five anti-Muslim hate incidents reported between Oct. 7 and Oct. 25, adding that more incidents had occurred since those figures were tabulated.

In the Peel region, Trillium Health Partners, a hospital network, said one of its doctors received an antisemitic death threat last week. Police say they are investigating the incident.

The hospital network said the doctor received the threat at “non-hospital work premises,” but that it immediately increased security at its two hospitals in Mississauga and health centre in Etobicoke.

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In New Brunswick, police announced the arrest of a 19-year-old man after a playground in Riverview, a town of about 20,000 people, was spray-painted with swastikas.

Last month, the Ontario Provincial Police said they had increased patrols “in areas of cultural and religious significance” and “will maintain open lines of communication with community leaders.”

“We want to assure the people of Ontario that we continue to focus on public safety,” they said in a statement.

According to a Statistics Canada report issued in July, Jews remain the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in Canada, despite making up only about one per cent of Canada’s population.

“Antisemitism isn’t just a real and present threat today, it’s a problem growing at a frightening rate. In Canada alone, anti-Jewish hate crime has increased 52 per cent since 2020,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

“That’s why we have a big choice to make about antisemitism — ignore its impact and walk away or come together to push back against it.”

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