Record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada, B'nai Brith Canada audit finds

For another consecutive year, Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada has found the number of antisemitic incidents in Canada increased. Caryn Lieberman reports.

Canada experienced another record-setting year for antisemitic incidents in 2021, B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights’ 40th Annual Audit of Antisemitic incidents revealed.

“That, just to give it a little bit of perspective, is almost eight antisemitic incidents that have been recorded every single day in 2021. What was very disturbing was an over 733 per cent increase of violent incidents in 2021,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

The number of incidents recorded was 2,799, marking the fourth successive year in which the 2,000 mark was exceeded, the Jewish advocacy group pointed out.

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“If you are Jewish, you are more likely to be a victim of a hate crime by far than if you were a member of any other minority,” said David Matas, senior legal counsel at B’nai Brith Canada.

Online hate has become the preferred method of targeting Jews, with B’nai Brith Canada logging 2,093 incidents of online hate, an increase of 12.3 per cent over 2020.

“Online has made it easier for the haters to be heard,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of the League for Human Rights, B’nai Brith Canada.

He pointed out that when Canadians were in their homes, in lockdown, the opportunity for in-person harassment had decreased.

“On the other hand, it fed a trend that we have been seeing for the last five years a growth of vile, hateful online hate targeting Jews…. We need to modernize our legislation to address online hate,” said Rotrand.

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B’nai Brith Canada pointed out that many of the incidents were reported during the month of May 2021.

Rotrand said 623 incidents — 22.3 per cent of the total for the year — happened in May.

“Many of the violent incidents occurred in the month of May. There were many reports of peaceful rallies, pro-Israel rallies where Jews and others were attacked by those who were spouting anti-Israel, antisemitic and anti-Jewish slogans and often throwing rocks,” said Rotrand.

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Mostyn said “the Jewish community really did feel something changed in the month of May.”

“Our community has been complaining for many, many years about incitement that’s been taking place on university campuses and that incitement will sooner or later lead to violence. We saw that violence start to emanate in a way our community, a generation of Jews in this country, has never witnessed before,” said Mostyn.

“It wasn’t just chanting, it was sometimes at these protests looking out for individual Jews or Israel supporters that had peeled off from the crowd and violently attacking those individuals…. We certainly hope that it doesn’t repeat itself, but the Jewish community is fearful that in fact, it will.”

While Ontario experienced a decline in antisemitic incidents, Quebec and Western Canada reported increases.

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“We should note two troubling trends in Ontario. There were 25 violent incidents, an increase from three in 2020, and the number of cases of vandalism shot up from 68 to 156 and so while the global number is lower, there are troubling trends even within Ontario,” Rotrand said.

Mostyn said “despite the dismal numbers posted in 2021, there is always hope for improvement.”

“Better reporting of hate crimes and incidents, better training and resources for police departments to recognize and combat antisemitism, may all make a difference, if achieved,” he said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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