This week saw multiple instances of anti-Semitic graffiti targeting the Canadian Jewish community, with B’nai Brith Canada sounding the alarm that the incidents may be linked to the start of a federal election.
The hate crimes against the community began on Sunday, the day the federal election was called, according to a B’nai Brith report. That morning, players in a Toronto area Jewish baseball league discovered a swastika drawn in the sand at Harding Park in suburban Richmond Hill, where they were scheduled to play.
The incident is currently being investigated by local police.
On Monday, a vehicle in a midtown Toornto parking garage belonging to an apartment building was defaced with swastikas.
Later that day, Charlton Public School, which is in heavily Jewish Thornhill, north of Toronto, was vandalized with swastikas and other vulgar graffiti.
On Wednesday, campaign signs for MPs Rachel Bendayan and Anthony Housefather, two Jewish politicians running for re-election in Montreal, were defaced with swastikas.
That same day, a downtown Toronto anti-hate sign by United Grassroots Movement, showing solidarity with the Jewish community in the face of rising anti-Semitism, was itself defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti that said, “Free Palestine” and “Zionists aren’t Jews.”
The ad campaign was created by a group of Jewish Canadians in partnership with La’ad Canada at the end of June after a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the Toronto area.
“It is very telling that an advertisement specifically calling for an end to hatred against Jews was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti,” said Sam Eskenasi, Director of Advocacy for La’ad Canada. “This campaign is about combatting anti-Semitism against Jews in the City of Toronto, where they have been the number one victims of hate crimes for 13 years, according to Toronto Police. This is local, it isn’t about Israel and it is shameful for the advertisements to be defaced in this manner.”
Eskenasi added: “Regardless of your opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict, this type of blanket condemnation of Jews is the very definition of anti-Semitism when it comes to the Middle East. The fact that Canadian Jews are being blamed for a political issue a world away makes it hard to pretend that your issues with Israel are legitimate and not just about your issues with Jews in general.”
The latest incident occurred Thursday morning when a swastika and other anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered spray painted on the entrance to Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto.
That incident has also been reported to the police.
“The continued use of the Nazi swastika in an attempt to intimidate Jewish communities is reprehensible and unacceptable,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “We trust that our law enforcement partners will investigate these matters diligently and do everything possible to apprehend the perpetrators.”
He noted the coincidental timing of an announcement by Toronto Police on Monday that Carlos Anaya-Sanchez had been charged with one count of mischief under $5000 for allegedly drawing swastikas on chairs at a Toronto park in June.
B’nai Brith has previously found that anti-Semitic incidents appear to increase in Canada during provincial and federal elections.