By ELYSE TYTEL
Antisemitic incidents in Canada set records for a fourth consecutive year, according to B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audit.
The 2,207 reported incidents in 2019 represented an eight per cent increase over the previous year. The Jewish community remained the most targeted religious minority in Canada.
There was an average of six anti-Semitic incidents per day last year, said the audit, which was released late last month.
While harassment, both online and in person, almost doubled in 2019 and accounted for over 90 per cent of antisemitic incidents, of most concern to B’nai Brith is the increase in violent incidents, which went up by 27 per cent compared with 2018.
The audit also found that assaults became more brazen and violent in 2019, with several occurring in broad daylight and some directly before eyewitnesses.
“The record numbers of incidents we have documented in recent years have become the new baseline for antisemitism in Canada, and they are alarming,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.
“These figures, and the brazenness of the incidents we are seeing, would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. Instead, they have become a loathsome reality in this country,” Mostyn went on. “It is not only Jewish people who must be appalled by this pattern. It’s any law-abiding, decent human being.”
Reported incidents of violence include an assault against a visibly observant Jewish man by a Montreal taxi driver; a physical attack against two young observant Jews in a Toronto-area public park; and a construction worker spraying tar on some Hasidic children in Outremont, Que.
The most dramatic spikes in anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Ontario, with a 63 percent increase over the year before, followed by Quebec with an increase of 12 percent.
While the Prairie and Atlantic regions experienced decreases in incidents, their numbers remained higher than they were before 2017.
Another alarming trend found in this year’s audit is an increase of more than 11 per cent in anonymous online harassment, much of it advocating genocide and Holocaust denial.
In addition, post-secondary institutions were shown to be significant breeding grounds for antisemitism in Canada, including through a rise in far-left activism against Israel.
According to the audit, Jewish students are increasingly reporting incidents of vandalism and threats of violence.
“We have seen private homes, public spaces, high schools and universities defaced with Nazi imagery and antisemitic conspiracy theories,” noted Ran Ukashi, national director of B’nai Brith’s League of Human Rights.
“Individual students and student organizations were harassed, discriminated against, and, in some cases, attacked on university campuses. Jews were beaten on Canadian streets – similar to alarming trends seen in the United States and Europe,” Ukashi said.
The 2019 audit also calls out “the antisemitic and discriminatory policies which were enacted in Canada, such as Quebec’s Bill 21, which overtly discriminates against Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious articles by limiting their opportunities in the public sector.”
The audit includes an eight-point plan for government officials to tackle antisemitism. Instituting dedicated hate crime units in every major city, declaring a zero-tolerance approach to government funding of anti-Semitism, and holding post-secondary institutions accountable for campus antisemitism are a few of the points outlined.
The audit’s numbers are based on incidents reported to the League for Human Rights through its Anti-Hate Hotline, as well as data collected from police and law enforcement agencies.
Late last month, Toronto police said they were investigating after anti-Semitic graffiti were spray painted on a garage and a coffee shop in the city’s west end. In one incident, the Aroma coffee shop near College and Bathurst streets, part of a chain of cafés founded in Israel, was tagged with the message “Zionists are not welcome.” It was the second time that month that the same café was vandalized with a similar message.