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B'nai Brith Audit of Antisemitic Incidents: 2011 figure of Antisemitic incidents represents substantial increase of 30% over 2010 findings




Antisemitism in Canada: A 30-Year Retrospective

 

 

The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada has monitored and reported on hate-motivated incidents directed at the Jewish community in Canada for thirty years. This annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents provides an examination of racism and bigotry in this country, as expressed in attacks of harassment, vandalism or violence against individual Jews or the community's institutions. It is cited by Statistics Canada, government and research agencies, and authoritative sources around the world and is the single most credible study of the phenomenon of antisemitism and patterns of occurrence and prejudice in Canada.

INTRODUCTION

Antisemitism in Canada: A 30-Year Retrospective
It is 30 years since the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada first started to document antisemitism through an annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. Coincidentally, this year also marks a seminal anniversary in Canadian jurisprudence: the 1982 enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, legislation that promised the constitutional entrenchment of such basic rights as freedom of religion. Legislative advances notwithstanding, in terms of continued prejudice towards Jews and other religious minorities in Canada, the attitudes of Canadians as they contemplate neighbours with different customs and traditions, has not undergone any radically transformative change. In fact, available data shows that the number of antisemitic incidents has increased in the intervening years; compared to just ten years ago, the number of incidents has increased threefold. Clearly, an underlying thread of bigotry still runs through both public and private discourse, whether explicit or nuanced, reflecting continuing, deeply-rooted, underlying prejudice.
To be sure, public and institutional discourse on the celebration of Canadian multicultural diversity – ethnic, religious and cultural – is flourishing apace. Important inroads have been made in education and awareness-building; promising alliances have been forged between communities. Reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural requirements is in general accepted - albeit with pockets of resistance - at least in principle. Canada is a country where minority rights are protected and different traditions are celebrated, placing it light years away from states across the globe that propagate or enable bigotry, discrimination and a raft of human rights abuses.
The 1,297 reported incidents in Canada during 2011 offer a cross-section of what anti-Jewish prejudice looks like in Canada, illustrating a darker side to the advance of multiculturalism in this country. There are clearly still quarters where anti-Jewish ideologies find resonance, prompting hate-motivated activity - vandalism, harassment and even violence - in a variety of sectors of society.
This finding of a persistence in hate activity motivated by religion against Jews and Jewish institutions, as reported by the League over the past three decades, has been substantiated over and over again by police hate crime unit reports in several jurisdictions, and by Statistics Canada investigations as well. Just recently, in a Stats Canada study of hate crimes reported to police country-wide in 2010, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics' Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey found yet again that Jews were the most targeted group in religiously motivated hate crimes. Studies south of the border such as the FBI's Hate Crimes Statistics 2010 further corroborate these findings, indicating the road travelled since the League first began documenting antisemitism in 1982 has been a uphill struggle.
What is Antisemitism?
Adding fuel to the fire, populist movements searching for supporters often find it expedient to co-opt the type of rhetoric and imagery that oils the wheels of antisemitism. Hence the conflation of anti-Israel and antisemitic themes in the rank-and-file rallying cries of a variety of unrelated anti-globalization, anti-poverty, campus, church, union and other such coalitions, or the anti-Jewish bent of many modern-day conspiracy theorists. Demonization of the Jewish State, delegitimization of its right to exist and defend itself, and selective and obsessive preoccupation only with Israel’s alleged human rights infractions while ignoring actual human rights abuses elsewhere, go well beyond the type of constructive criticism of state policy that could - and should - be directed against any country. As emphasized before, legitimate critiques of Israel are not considered antisemitism by the League, nor are they included amongst the incidents documented in this study. Denying the collective right of the Jewish People - alone out of all nations - the right to self determination in their own homeland, in much the same way as Jews were denied individual human rights is the past, is another matter.
As part of a reframing of public discourse on antisemitism that has taken place over the past 30 years, we increasingly see attempts by the Far Left to deny that this pernicious age-old hatred is even a form of racism, along with claims that Jews are unable to understand the concept of victimization since they are universally “privileged”. This goes hand in hand with Holocaust Denial from the Far Right, commonly presented under the guise of “scholarly discourse”, which is bent on denying the reality of historical truth regarding the Nazi era, and tries to rehabilitate the image of the perpetrators and give new currency to the anti-Jewish ideologies of the past.
At both extremes of the political spectrum we see alliances being made with yet a third group - a global propaganda movement that attempts to re-cast Jews as “oppressors”, "colonialists" and "despoilers" in the Middle East. This group excuses threats from Islamists against Israel, Jewish communities and individual Jews, and even rationalizes attacks such as the Toulouse school massacre, and other attacks on Diaspora communities, on the grounds that Jews who will not disassociate themselves from the Jewish State, and instead insist on its right to exist in safety and security, are legitimate targets for violence.
Despite the diverse ideological underpinnings of these three distinctly separate movements, they seem to find common ground on the “Jewish Question”. It is as if there were a natural affinity on the subject between these incongruous allies when they come together to attack both the individual and collective rights of the Jewish People from multiple directions at once. All three elements of this dubious partnership were reflected in the incidents documented in this study that took place in Canada in 2011, illustrating the many different faces of antisemitism and the contexts in which they occur.
 

Full text and details of the Audit can be obtained by visiting the League’s website at www.bnaibrith.ca

FINDINGS OF THE AUDIT

 
The National Scene
 
The findings that follow, when viewed in the context of the dynamics discussed above, can provide us with one more piece of the puzzle that characterizes the shifting patterns of prejudice in Canada, and help us to create a blueprint for change. The recommendations that conclude the 2011 Audit will suggest ways to make this happen.
In 2011, the League for Human Rights documented 1,297 antisemitic incidents across Canada, a decrease of less than 1% (-0.7%) over the 2010 data, The 2011 findings clearly indicate that antisemitism in Canada has continued its elevated levels unabated.

Antisemitic incidents took place throughout the year in all regions of Canada, with the exception of the Northern Region. Harassment was the largest of the three categories in the majority of these regions, with vandalism the next largest category. Only in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, were acts of violence reported.

Changes from 2010 to 2011 varied greatly from region to region, though most areas showed an increase in vandalism, as reflected in the national average. The Atlantic region registered a marked increase in vandalism (31.3%), with two synagogues defaced in the latter part of the year, while reports of harassment dropped (by 33.3%). In Manitoba, however, vandalism decreased by 27.6%, while harassment showed a pronounced increase of 74.2%. In addition, there were three cases of violence reported in Manitoba, whereas there were no such cases in 2010.

Moving to other areas, vandalism incidents in Saskatchewan more than doubled, while harassment cases decreased by 31.6%. In Alberta, where an antisemitic crime spree rocked the city in 2010, vandalism dropped by 43.8%, as did cases of harassment, albeit by a smaller percentage (4%). In British Columbia, vandalism increased sharply from 15 to 27 cases, including cemetery desecration and antisemitic graffiti on a public school. Harassment remained constant at 59 cases, while no incidents of violence were reported.

As has consistently been the case in previous years, the majority of cases, 54.6% of the total number of incidents in 2011, took place in Ontario. The 708 cases across Ontario reflect a small decrease of 3.7% from the previous year. Violence remained constant with a reported eight cases, but vandalism incidents increased in the region by 8%.

In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), where a number of synagogues were vandalized, there was a 23.2% increase in this category, while in the other areas of the province there was a decrease in this type of incident.

Although the number of harassment incidents across the province decreased, Ottawa showed a significant increase of 17%, with many reports of abuse aimed at government officials and staff.

In Quebec, there was a marked spike in incidents of vandalism, with synagogues and schools as the targets. Province-wide, cases of harassment reported to the League dropped by 3.8%, though in Montreal itself, levels of harassment were more or less sustained, with a minimal increase of just under 1%.

The 2011 incidents were reported to the League in several ways: to its 24-hour Anti-Hate Hotline at 1-800 892 BNAI (2624); online to www.bnaibrith.ca or via its Facebook page; directly to B’nai Brith Canada’s national and regional offices; or to partners in community and law enforcement agencies working collaboratively with the League.

A total of 1,712 potentially antisemitic cases were reported to the League over the course 2011, setting off a process of investigation and verification. Out of this total, 415 cases proved to fall outside the applicable definition of antisemitism, or could not be substantiated. They are therefore not included in the final 2011 figures.

When looking at the final figures, it is important to remember that they represent just a cross section of incidents that take place since many go unreported. In Statistics Canada’s recently-released Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, which studies hate crimes reported to police in 2010, it is estimated that only 34% of hate crimes were reported. Other law enforcement experts and researchers estimate that a much lower figure - closer to 10% - would be more accurate. In any case, since clearly many victims never come forward to report their victimization, the incidents reported here are just one part of the complete picture. Victims of harassment and vandalism in particular fear acts of reprisal if they come forward. Others fear that their victimization will be dismissed as insignificant or just “teenagers acting out”.

In 2011, 446 of the 1297 incidents were reported to police or about one third, consistent with reporting patterns of previous years. That is a relatively high number considering that most of the incidents in the harassment category do not qualify as a criminal offence under the Criminal Code.

CLASSIFICATION BY TYPE OF INCIDENTS

The 1,297 incidents reported across Canada in 2011 can be classified by category as follows: 916 cases of harassment (70.6%), 362 incidents of vandalism (27.9%) and 19 cases of violence (1.5%).

The definitions of these categories have remained the same throughout the history of the League’s Audit, to ensure consistency and allow for accurate year-by-year comparisons.

Harassment cases decreased overall by 5.1% over 2010, although some regions did see increases in this category. While some might seek to dismiss incidents in this category as mere “name calling” type of incidents, it is important to note that 102 of the cases in this category involved explicit threats of violence. Given that there were only 80 such cases in this category recorded in 2010, the threatening flavour of incidents of harassment has intensified.

Cases of vandalism increased by 14.2% overall in 2011, reversing the decrease documented in 2010 when an 8.9% drop in vandalism was recorded. Regions such as Alberta saw a significant drop in this category, including Calgary where incidents in 2010 led to criminal charges. On the other hand, Quebec - and Montreal in particular - saw a marked increase in this category, with attacks against synagogues and a daycare ushering in the year. At the very end of the year, desecration of one of the country’s oldest cemeteries in Victoria, BC, reflected the significant upswing in this category of vandalism in this region. At least three cases involved arson.

Reported incidents of violence dropped from 24 cases in 2010 to 19 cases in 2011, a 20.8% decrease. However, there were regional differences. Three cases of violence were recorded in Manitoba in 2011, whereas there were no such cases in 2010 and only two in 2009. One of these cases involved the use of a lighter in an attack against a female high school student.
 

Manitoba in 2011

In Manitoba, there were 78 reported cases during 2011, compared to 60 in 2010 and 37 in 2009. The 2011 figure represents a substantial increase of 30% over the 2010 findings and significantly, 105% over the 2009 findings. The 2011 Manitoba incidents represent 6% of the country’s total 1297 cases, compared to 4.7% in 2010.

 
The incidents are documented in the following categories:
54 cases of harassment

21 cases of vandalism

3 cases of violence

 

Manitoba
Total
Harassment
Vandalism
Violence
2011
78
54
21
3
2010
60
31
29
0
 

The majority of incidents took place in the capital city of Winnipeg, where the vast majority of the province's Jewish population resides.

Private residences and public property were targeted by repeated incidents of ugly graffiti, including slurs and symbols of hate against the Jewish community.

Unlike the national trend, in Manitoba vandalism decreased by 27.6%, while harassment showed a pronounced increase of 74.2%. There were three cases of violence in 2011, none in 2010.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) reported that it had responded to 27 complaints of antisemitism in 2011 – almost half of the total of 58 complaints of hate- motivated activity targeting victims’ race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation reported to the WPS in 2011..

This clearly illustrates a continuing disproportionate targeting of the Jewish community compared to other ethnic and religious groups, a pattern that has been steadily intensifying in the past decade.

Of the 27 antisemitic incidents reported to the WPS in 2011, one was solved and non- criminal, one was cleared by charges while the remaining 25 remain unsolved.
 

Examples of incidents in Manitoba in 2011

Antisemitic graffiti painted on a wall at Winnipeg Beach.

Jewish children at school were victims of antisemitic slurs by their peers.

Five students posed with graffiti including swastikas they drew on a vehicle outside a Winnipeg public high school
 
Student victimized at the University of Winnipeg by another student when accosted and told ‘get that disgusting zionist star (star of David necklace) off.’

Two students taunted another student with antisemitic slurs and holocaust denial then chased the victim into a school stairwell where one of them set the victim’s hair on fire with a lighter.

Conclusion and Recommendations

 

Recommendations:

 

The sustained levels of antisemitism documented in this report point to the need for ongoing efforts to combat hate in this country. The commitment to counter such hate-based activity is reflected in the Ottawa Protocol of the most recent conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, which was held in Canada in 2012. This country was the first to sign on to the Protocols in 2011, indicating a strong commitment to fighting antisemitism in all its manifestations. The Protocol also reflected the findings and recommendations of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) in its 2011 report.
 
 
1. Every sector of the community needs to maintain a zero tolerance for hate, from educators at elementary and high schools, and campus administrators, to human rights commissions, police and government. Public education is the key to the success of such an approach. This is reinforced by the Interparlimentary Committee’s finding that campuses across Canada have been at the centre of antisemitic activity, a finding that is echoed in the Audit.
 

2. Resources must be earmarked for training for both front-line officers and Crowns, in order to ensure focused intelligence gathering and investigative proficiency. The training must focus on Canadian realities and rely on Canadian expertise, which is available through the good offices of community-based organizations such as the League that actually work with victims.

 
3. With legislation likely to be passed removing the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with hate on the internet, it is crucial that the Criminal Code provisions to fight hate be strengthened at the same time. Since Holocaust denial is one of the most common vehicles of contemporary antisemitism on the web, the Canadian Criminal Code should be amended to include Holocaust denial as a specified hate crime, as is already the case in a number of European countries.

4. Hate groups, and the symbols they use to advance their racist agenda, should be banned in accordance with Canada’s international obligations, specifically the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which bans hate propaganda and hate groups.

 
5. While consent by the provincial Attorneys General to hate crime prosecutions needs to stand as a safeguard to potential abuses, it should not be used as a way of nullifying the law itself. Guidelines - and a requirement to provide reasons where consent to proceed is refused - should be mandated across jurisdictions. It must be made clear that by repealing Section 13 of the Act, the Canadian Government has not withdrawn its commitment to protect all Canadians from hate speech.
 

6. Consideration should be given to removing the defense of truth from Section 319(3) of the Criminal Code. No other country of a common law tradition has such a provision in its hate speech law. As well, the defence of religious belief should be clarified or repealed.

 
7. Consideration should be given to adding a combination of substantive offences and penalty enhancement to the Criminal Code. When hate crimes are enacted as substantive offences, the hate crimes have more symbolic weight, thus setting the right tone to the investigation, and data is subsequently easier to collect. An amendment to substantive offences has been suggested by Stephen Camp, from the Edmonton Police Service, Alberta, a proposal the League supported. While penalty enhancement might be easier to implement, in such cases the police may not investigate the hate aspects and cannot collect required evidence that could lead to an aggravated sentence.
 

8. The victim of a hate crime and his/her right to be heard must also be considered throughout the process. Consideration should be given to making the right of the victim to make submissions as to penalty mandatory. If an organization filed the initial complaint, that organization should be able to submit its opinion as amicus curiae.

9. A community’s educational facilities should be recognized as protected facilities under hate crime provisions.

10. Given the ongoing and increasing problem of bullying – including its more modern variant of cyberbullying - an educational task force should be set up to assess whether current pedagogical techniques have kept pace when it comes to monitoring and countering hate in the classroom and the school yard.

We conclude this year’s Audit by reiterating the words of the Ottawa Protocol “We renew our call for national governments, parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, NGOs, and civil society to affirm democratic and human values, build societies based on respect and citizenship and combat any manifestations of antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.”

The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada

Manitoba Region
C403-123 Doncaster Street Winnipeg MB R3N 2B2
Tel.: 204.487.9623 Fax: 204.487.9648
Alan Yusim, Director
 
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