When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons on November 7 to offer Canada’s apology for turning away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany on board the MS St. Louis in 1939 – 254 of whom were ultimately murdered in the Holocaust after the ship returned to Europe – he offered a chilling statistic about anti-Semitism in today’s Canada:
“According to the most recent figures, 17 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada target Jewish people. Far higher per capita than any other group,” he said.
Trudeau noted manifestations of anti-Semitism including Holocaust denial, graffiti attacks on Jewish institutions, BDS-related intimidation on college and university campuses, and said, “Discrimination and violence against Jewish people in Canada and around the world continues at an alarming rate.”
While Trudeau’s apology was scheduled well in advance to take place just before the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany and Austria that signalled the start of the Holocaust, it also took place while Jewish communities around the world were in shock from the anti-Semitic Shabbat morning massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in which 11 worshippers were murdered – the single worst case of anti-Semitic violence in American history.
Trudeau pledged to bolster the Security Infrastructure Program so that synagogues and other places at risk for hate crimes are better protected.
“We must guard our communities and institutions against the kinds of evils that took hold in the hearts of so many more than 70 years ago, for they did not end with the war,” he said.
On November 29, three weeks after Trudeau spoke in Parliament, Statistics Canada released its report on police-reported hate crime for 2017 and the figure for ant-Semitic hate crimes had actually worsened from the earlier statistic the prime minister quoted.
Hate crimes against Jews accounted for 18 per cent of all hate crimes reported to police in Canada in 2017 (while Jews represent only about one per cent of Canada’s population). Ontario and British Columbia were the provinces with the largest increases of hate crimes against Jews.
By contrast, hate crimes against Muslims accounted for 17 per cent of all hate crimes reported to police in Canada in 2017, while there are about three times as many Muslims than Jews in Canada. Although it must be noted that the single worst hate crime in Canada in 2017 was the massacre at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City when six worshippers mere murdered and 19 others were wounded.
Other groups that suffered from significant numbers of police-reported hate crimes in 2017 included Black Canadians (16 per cent) and the LGBTQ community (10 per cent).
While Canada is one of the world’s most enlightened and highly educated countries, it is clear that anti-Semitism and other forms of irrational hatred have not disappeared in the decades since the Holocaust and civil rights movement – that the situation continues to worsen.
In response to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel released a statement expressing alarm about the “spike in hate crimes against the Jewish community and other groups in Canada. It is disturbing to think an anti-Semitic hate crime takes place every 24 hours in our country. History demonstrates that those who target Jews and other minorities pose a threat to society as a whole. All Canadians should be vigilant in standing against hate.”
The CIJA statement went on to call on the federal government to expand the Security Infrastructure Program to cover training costs; to develop a national strategy to combat online hate; and to increase the capacity of law enforcement agencies to combat hate crimes – including enhancing measures against hate speech.
CIJA began a campaign on the first night of Chanukah urging members of the Jewish community to contact the federal government in support of those proposals. It is important that we must not be complacent.