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Vandalized synagogue in Calgary. A suspect for this past fall’s crime spree of vandalized sites in Calgary has recently been arrested in Winnipeg.


By Rhonda Spivak

According to an annual audit recently released by the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada, anti-Semitic incidents in Canada have increased 11.4% from 2008.  This is the highest figure ever recorded in the history of the Audit first released 28 years ago, and a more than five-fold increase in incidents over the past decade.

The total of 1,264 anti-Semitic incidents reported by the Audit  across Canada breaks down as follows: 884 harassment (69.9% of total cases), 348 vandalism (27.5%) and 32 cases of violence (2.5%). As in previous years, harassment continues to comprise the majority of cases.   Incidents increased in all three categories.  Violence showed the most dramatic increase, more than doubling in one year.   Harassment went up by 10.1%, while vandalism was up by 9.4%.

Alan Yusim, Executive director of B’nai Brith Midwest Region told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “We also noted with concern the spike in incidents in September 2009 during the High Holiday period, when across the country ten synagogues were vandalized, including four in Quebec in one night, just before Yom Kippur.  Such activity against the Jewish community’s religious institutions cannot simply be dismissed as an aberration.”

Yusim also said that “A survey specially commissioned for the Audit was undertaken by COMPAS, a major national pollster.  The results of the survey describe a Jewish community deeply concerned about the rising influence of political and religious ideology that smears Israel and Jews as the enemy.”  


According to the Annual Audit, there were 37 anti-Semitic incidents in Manitoba, an 8.8% increase from the 34 cases in 2008.   Thirty-five of the 2009 incidents took place in Winnipeg, and 2 in rural Manitoba.  Out of the 37 incidents, there were 27 incidents of harassment, 8 of vandalism, and 2 cases of violence. The incidents of vandalism are occurring in areas throughout Winnipeg, and are not limited to Jewish institutions or Jewish neighborhoods.

While incidents in Ontario incidents went down slightly (by1.5%) and the Greater Toronto Area dropped by 11%, incidents in Ottawa rose by 14.5 % and in other areas of Ontario by 48.8%.

In Quebec, there was a 52.5% increase over the 2008 data, with a 58.7% increase in Montreal, and a 22.7% increase in other areas of that province. The Atlantic Region, showed a 21.1% increase.
Am Shalom synagogue
Am Shalom synagogue vandalized
in Barrie, Ontario, November 2009.

2009 AuditIn British Columbia there was no overall change in the past year, whereas there was a 34% increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Alberta. Saskatchewan incidents showed a drop from 25 to 12 cases (down by 52%).

Across Canada, there were 137 incidents on university campuses - a dramatic increase from the 76 incidents reported in 2008.  Incidents included face-to-face harassment and assaults during campus events.

The month of January, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, showed the highest number of incidents, an all-time monthly high.

“We feel that this was due in major part to vociferous anti-Israel campaigning on Canadian campuses, which artificially maintained an atmosphere of hostility and aggression that often led to anti-Semitic outbursts. The increased occurrence of hate- motivate incidents in January was experienced around the world,” Yusim told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.


According to the Audit there were two incidents of violence in Manitoba, whereas there were no such cases in the previous year.

“In one instance a Jewish individual from Alberta was harassed and assaulted while on a  business trip here,” Yusim said.

The other incident involved occupants of a truck which drove past a group of  visibly Jewish individuals walking home from synagogue shouting anti-Semitic slurs, who then returned and threw garbage at the group.

“This took place on Grant Ave,” Yusim added.

According to Yusim, “There were no charges, and no arrests in either case.”

Other Manitoba incidents included:

A Jewish youth was playing AAA Midget hockey at a local arena and a member of the other team called him a “f***king Jew”.

A high school reunion’s Facebook page received the message “Why does (the school) let all those dirty Indians in the school…not to mention all those f***king Jews and Negroes…?”

Graffiti including swastikas was spray-painted on city property in Wolesley.

Anti-Semitic references were spray-painted on a home in River Heights

Graffiti and swastikas were scrawled on the walls of a school in Westwood.

The Hate Crimes Unit of the Winnipeg Police Service reported that it had responded to eight complaints of anti-Semitism in 2009 - half of the total of complaints of hate- motivated activity overall. 


According to the B’nai Brith Audit, there were 434 reports of web-based hate activity with a Canadian connection, an 8% increase from 2008.

David Matas, B’nai Brith Canada’s Senior Honourary Counsel  was a co-chair of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism working group on online anti-Semitism, which was held in Jerusalem last December.

According to Matas, one problem was  that “ Facebook ignored complaints about Holocaust denial and glorification of Nazism for a long time…Finally they declared that Holocaust denial did not breach the clause prohibiting "hateful" content as they didn't consider Holocaust denial, in and of itself, to be hateful.”  Matas is of the view that “Facebook internal policies and Facebook user agreements must be amended.”

Matas also told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that “Yahoo groups and Google groups host anti-Semitic sites. Yahoo even has a fascism category with a link inviting you to "Create a new fascist group".

Matas also noted that, there are other problems on the Internet that must be faced.  For example, there have been problems with what the report refers to as Google Earth and Replacement Geography. “The inclusion of virtual Palestine, superimposed on Israel in the core layer of Google Earth, was an example of replacement geography advanced by technology,” he noted. 


Regarding the methodology of the Annual Audit, Yusim pointed out that “The methodology used to collect the incidents analyzed in the 2009 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents has remained constant over the League’s 28 year data-collection history, with one exception: the addition of the category of violence, which was added in 2002 in response to a change in the type of incidents being reported. “

Yusim told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that there are several reasons, why incidents may well be under-reported:

“ It is important to note that anti-Israel incidents are only included where there is a clear anti-Jewish component, even though many more incidents would likely fall within the broader working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, now called the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, a major EU human rights body. In order to provide consistency for comparison purposes, this definition has not been incorporated into the Audit classification system, likely leading to an underestimation of the true breadth of the problem. One must remember that law enforcement experts and researchers estimate only 10% of the victims of any kind of hate crime ever come forward to report their victimization,” he said.

Yusim added, “Not every incident reported is accepted into the Audit database; in 2009, 62 incidents were investigated, but deemed inappropriate for inclusion into the total number of anti-Semitic cases.

Yusim also pointed out that the B’nai Brith Audit is cited and referred to by many respected organizations. “These include, for example, the International Religious Freedom Report, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of  the US State Department, in Washington, DC, the  World Survey of Anti-Semitism, Report on Canada, Stephen Roth Centre for the Study of Contemporary Anti- Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, an Annual Report on incidents and responses, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in Warsaw.”


In response to this evidence of an increase in hate-motivated activity in Canada, the B’nai Brith League of Human Rights has written a Victim’s Bill of Rights and urges government, law enforcement and the community at large to work towards its full implementation across Canadian society.

This  Bill calls for  prompt service from  police with expertise in the area of hate crimes; hate crime legislation designed specifically with the victim in mind; a Criminal Code that counters the activities of  Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis and white supremacists; speedy trials that brings the perpetrators to justice;  consistent sentencing guidelines that reflect the impact of hate-filled crimes, and will serve as a meaningful deterrent; harassment-free, zero-tolerance environments for hate-based activity, at school or in the workplace; a concerted effort by community, legal, law enforcement, educational, and corporate sectors to jointly advance programs aimed at countering the explosion of hate-motivated activity, including hate on the Internet;  a government that fully implements international agreements against hatred and demands the same from its global partners; A demonstrated resolve by all levels of government to implement policies that advance multiculturalism in a way that actively promotes core Canadian ideals of tolerance and respect. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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