Anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence spike in Canada in 2021

Anti-Semitism was at a record high in Canada last year, with rates rising sharply in Quebec and British Columbia, according to a report released Sunday.

An annual review by the Jewish human rights group B’nai B’rith found 2,799 hate crimes against Jews, including beatings, vandalism in synagogues and swastikas in schools.

Anti-Semitic incidents rose seven percent overall, but violent incidents rose over 700 percent from nine in 2020 to 75 in 2021.

In one recorded incident, a man allegedly gave a Nazi salute before attacking a woman in a Toronto subway station, the report said.

In another case, an employee at an Ontario liquor store was attacked by a customer who called him a “fucking dirty Jew”.

In January, swastikas were painted on the doors of a synagogue in Westmount, a suburb of Montreal. In June, a firebomb was firebombed at a Montreal kosher bakery, and in December, huge swastikas were drawn on an outdoor ice hockey rink in Mount Royal, Queensland.

The report says there was a spike in hate crimes against Jews last May, coinciding with an escalation in violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Jewish pro-Israel demonstrators were beaten, stones thrown at them, and spit on them.

At an anti-Israel rally in Winnipeg, a man displayed a banner depicting a figure throwing a Star of David into a trash can over a “Please keep the world clean” slogan.

David Matas, senior legal counsel for B’nai Brith, said the Jewish community “tops the list” of minorities subject to religious hatred.

“If you are Jewish, you are much more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than if you belong to another minority,” Matas said.

He told a press conference in Ottawa that there had been a “splash” of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.

The report said higher education institutions are “a significant breeding ground for anti-Semitism” as Jewish students increasingly report vandalism and threats of violence.

Conservative MP Melissa Lanzman said there was a “growing wave of anti-Semitism” in the country, not only among the far right, but also among university professors.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the ugliest manifestations of racism,” she said.

The report says persecution of Canadian Jews has dropped slightly to 2,460 incidents in 2021 from 2,483 in 2020. But online hate is up 12 percent, as more people connect online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B’nai B’rith, which checks on the incidents, found that some Jewish federal election candidates, including Montreal’s Liberal MP Anthony Hausfather, drew their posters with swastikas.

At a press conference in Ottawa on Monday, Housefather said that anti-Semitism “is a serious problem.”

He said he personally witnessed people in a car driving down a busy street in his constituency “shouting insults” from windows, including “kill the Jews, kill the Jews.”

The MP said the insults frightened many voters, and one of them asked if she should remove the mezuzah, a small decorative case containing Torah verses, from behind the door because it would identify her family as Jewish.

Marvin Rotrand, National Director of the B’nai B’rith Human Rights League, Canada, outlined “worrisome trends” in a number of provinces.

Most anti-Semitic incidents occurred last year in Quebec, where 828 incidents were reported last year compared to 686 in 2020.

British Columbia saw an increase of 111% to 409 incidents in 2021 from 194 in 2020, including 56 cases of vandalism and 296 incidents of online abuse and hate.

Anti-Jewish slurs soared in Alberta and more than doubled in the Prairies and Nunavut.

Atlantic Canada recorded 80 incidents in 2021 out of 199.

Ontario had the second highest number of reports, but 821 incidents in 2021 were down from 1,130 in 2020.

NDP MP Randall Garrison, representing Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, said he was shocked by the increase in cases in British Columbia.

The report includes a case in Richmond where a wooden pole with the message “COVID is the Jewish World Order” was found in a busy street.

— Marie Wolfe, Canadian Press.

Hate crimesLaw and justice