Swastika graffiti (illustration)
Swastika graffiti (illustration)Flash 90

Anti-Semitic and race-related graffiti was found scrawled at three schools in the town of Markham, a suburb of Toronto, over the weekend, reports CP24.

Police have launched an investigation.

Disturbing messages that equated Jewish symbols with Nazism and made reference to the KKK and “White Power” were found on playground equipment at a public school in the town.

Similar graffiti at was also found at another public school as well as at a local high school.

York Regional Police Inspector Alvara Almeida told CTV News that the incidents are being treated as a hate crime.

“The messages are anti-Semitic and racial in nature,” Almeida said. “We’ve been investigating throughout the day and as early as 6 p.m. this evening we’ve determined that all three are connected and we believe the same group of individuals are responsible for all three incidents.”

Almeida said police are now working to identify the perpetrators.

“We treat these matters very seriously given the nature of the material and the messages that were painted onto school property,” he said.

The local school board has been contacted to remove the graffiti.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) condemned the graffiti on Monday.

"We have seen Ontario schools become the targets of numerous anti-Semitic graffiti attacks this year, and this anti-Semitic messaging is often combined with messaging inspired by the white supremacist movement." said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo.

"We commend the police for quickly taking action and treating the graffiti as a serious crime as they search for suspects," he added.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) condemned the incident as well.

“We are disgusted by this act of hate. This is an appalling attempt to intimidate the Jewish and Black communities, and another painful example of how antisemitism goes hand-in-hand with other forms of racism. We have spoken with York Regional Police and York Region District School Board to offer our support for their efforts, as well as our friends at the Vaughan African Canadian Association to express our solidarity at this difficult time,” it said on Facebook.

Earlier this year, two swastikas were found drawn in chalk in a York University classroom. Police in York Region in Ontario later said they would increase patrols and presence at synagogues, Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions across the region.

In March, two Jewish centers in Ontario received bomb threats, in incidents that occurred at the same time that community centers across the United States had received similar threats.