The 280 antisemitic incidents reported in Canada in 2000 represented a 5 percent increase over the previous year. In October–November, after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada, reported antisemitic incidents more than doubled and were more violent, compared with the same two months in 1999. Quebec experienced a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in 2000. Renewed activity was reported within the extreme right Heritage Front camp.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Canada’s Jewish population numbers 365,000, representing 1.3 percent of the total population of 27 million. The largest communities are Toronto (170,000) and Montreal (100,000). Other important Jewish centers are Vancouver (30,000), Winnipeg (15,000) and Ottawa (12,000).
The B’nai B’rith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress are leading national Jewish organizations. Canadian Jews publish some 20 newspapers and journals, including B’nai B’rith’s Jewish Tribune, the largest circulation Jewish newspaper in Canada, and the Toronto-based Canadian Jewish News.
The Extreme Right
The Canadian white supremacist scene has been scattered and without coherent leadership for the latter part of the last decade, although Internet recruitment has enabled various individuals to affiliate themselves with pre-established hate groups in urban centers. There has been renewed activity within the Heritage Front camp. The Canadian Heritage Alliance (CHA), set up in the London/Kitchener-Waterloo corridor, seems to be an attempt to fill the void left by the diminishing Front and to inject some youthful vigor into the “freedom of expression” groups, such as Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) and Canada First Immigration Reform Committee (CFIRC). Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team (CECT) is another new white supremacist group which may have some affiliation with the Heritage Front group in the same area. There were also reports of Heritage Front activity in the Maritime provinces, including an assault by members on some Japanese tourists in a restaurant. In Saint John, New Brunswick, white supremacist leaflets were found in a city hall newspaper box. The material exhorted “White Canada” to “Wake up. No Jews. No Niggers. No gays. Take it from us. We will win the holy war. Keep Canada strong.”
The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) is active in some small Ontario cities and in British Columbia (BC). In Brantford, Ontario, a man known as Bud Gallant, has been operating a WCOTC website.
On the skinhead front, the Vinland Skinheads are rumored to be organizing in both the anglophone and francophone communities in Quebec, while the Arrowcross Skins put out a call for members in the Toronto area on the US Stormfront message board on the Internet.
Hizballah, Hamas, al-Qa‘ida (Usama bin Ladin’s organization in Afghanistan – see General Analysis) and other Sunni Islamic extremist groups are reportedly active in Canada. According to the National Post Online (4 May 2000), the head of CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), Ward Elcock, stated that he considers Islamic terrorists Canada’s prime security threat, and that Canada is facing a crisis of transnational Islamic terrorism. CSIS states that many of these groups blend into local immigrant communities where they fund-raise and spread bias and friction, often in mosques and other religious institutions. Canadian citizens in immigrant communities report that they have been intimidated and manipulated to support these groups. In late 1999 and early 2000 there was a massive manhunt for Algerian terrorists in Canada, after Ahmed Ressam, purported to be an agent of al-Qa‘ida, was discovered transporting bomb-making materials to the United States via British Columbia, as reported in the National Post. CSIS indicates that it is monitoring 50 organizations and 350 individuals. Some names of extremist Muslim groups appeared in threats made to Jewish organizations during the Middle East tensions in late 2000. It is most likely, however, that rather than actually representing these groups, unaffiliated individuals are using their names to intimidate their targets.
There were 280 antisemitic incidents reported to B’nai B’rith Canada’s League for Human Rights (hereafter, the League) in 2000. This represents a 5 percent increase from the 267 incidents in 1999. Harassment (including assault, threats, hate propaganda distribution and hate mail, verbal slurs and systemic discrimination) comprised the largest proportion of incidents for 2000 (192). This is a decrease of 6 percent from the 205 cases of harassment in 1999. However, many of the incidents were far more violent than in years past. In 2000, there were 88 reported acts of vandalism across the country, a 42 percent increase from the 62 reported incidents in 1999. This is the second consecutive year showing an increase in reported acts of vandalism.
The number of antisemitic acts fluctuated only slightly across Canada during the year until the outbreak of violence in the Middle East in late September, which was accompanied by a wave of incidents. In October and November, reported antisemitic incidents more than doubled, from 40 to 96, compared with the same two months in the previous year. It is certainly possible that perceived anti-Israel bias by some mainstream media outlets gave various elements tacit approval for their antisemitism.
Also markedly different was the severity of the incidents (see below). There were no assaults in October and November 1999 compared with seven assaults during this period in 2000. Incidents of vandalism (including fire bombings of synagogues) increased by over 200 percent, from 12 to 40. There were five bomb threats to Jewish or Israel-related organizations and four death threats to lay leaders and staff people of Jewish community groups. Although several assaults were purported to be committed by Arab Canadians most of the incidents reported during this period appear to have been acts of opportunistic hate groups or individual antisemites, who used Middle East tensions as a pretext or catalyst for their expressions of hatred, rather than as a reflection of pro-Palestinian sentiments.
Regionally, throughout the year, there were 110 reported incidents of antisemitism in Toronto, representing 39 percent of all reported incidents in Canada in 2000. These included a number of death threats, bomb threats, assaults, and serious acts of vandalism. Although this represents a 7.6 percent decrease from 1999, when 119 incidents were reported, several of the incidents were far more severe than in the past.
In regional Ontario (not including the city of Toronto or the National Capital Region) there was a 13 percent decrease in antisemitic incidents, with 41 reported in 2000 compared to 47 the previous year.
The 24 reported incidents in the Ottawa area represent a 25 percent decrease from the 32 reported incidents in 1999; they included one arson attack.
There were 14 reported incidents of antisemitism in Saskatchewan and Alberta in 2000, including the fire bombings of two synagogues in Edmonton in October, one of them bombed twice in three weeks, representing a significant increase in antisemitic incidents over the five incidents in 1999. The presence of a large Muslim community in these regions may account for the rise in attacks.
British Colombia (BC) had nine reported incidents in 2000, the second consecutive decrease from the 12 reported in 1999 and 17 reported in 1998.
Only one antisemitic incident was reported in the Maritime region in 2000 compared with three in 1999.
The year 2000 saw an extraordinarily sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in Quebec. These were connected mainly with white supremacy activity, Middle East related incidents, and events surrounding the so-called Michaud affair. This affair began in December 2000 when former member of the Quebec legislature (the National Assembly) and Parti Québecois nationalist hardliner Yves Michaud announced his intention to seek the party’s nomination in the Montreal area riding of Mercier. A few days earlier, when interviewed on CKAC radio he said: “It’s about you [Jews]. You’re the only people in the world to have suffered in the history of humanity. I had just about had it.” The next day, in a brief to the Estates General on Language, he suggested that the residents of a largely Jewish suburb of the City of Montreal were anti-Quebec, referring to them as immigrants, despite the fact that most had been born and raised in Quebec. The National Assembly voted unanimously to condemn Michaud for his remarks.
Antisemitism in the Montreal area increased markedly in the year 2000, particularly following the outbreak of violence in the Middle East. There were 71 reported antisemitic acts in 2000, an 87 percent increase over the 37 incidents recorded in 1999 and a 255 percent increase over the 20 incidents reported in 1998.
Montreal Jews were victims of vandalism, threats, and a number of assaults resulting in bodily harm. For example, on 10 October two individuals attacked an identifiably Jewish man at a metro station in Montreal, knocking him unconscious. Bystanders intervened when the attackers tried to throw him onto the subway rails. Further, a rabbi was harassed and insulted on a Montreal bus by 10-15 youths. When two women came to the rabbi’s aid, one was slapped and spit upon. During the weekend of Succoth, seven Jewish-owned summer homes were vandalized in Ste. Agathe, Quebec. The mezuzahs were removed and the interior of one of the houses was virtually destroyed. Graffiti on the walls included curses and the words “Die in hell.” The offenders have been identified and were to appear in a criminal youth court.
Concealing hate literature in books is a technique commonly used by hate groups. A customer in a used book store found a virulently antisemitic pamphlet inside a book. The pamphlet advertised classes in an Ottawa library which teach about the evils of Jews, including “how to detect a Jew by smell,” “how to send money to Hamas and Hizballah through embassies in Ottawa” and “how to kill a Jew with your bare hands.” It continued with Holocaust denial diatribes and “the Zionist-American Nazi plan to murder the entire Muslim population in the Middle East.” Similarly, a man perusing the book The History of the Jews in a major Ontario bookstore found a Holocaust denial pamphlet tucked into the pages.
Sigfrida Publications, a magazine “for and about white women in the racialist struggle” continues to sell white supremacist material from their BC headquarters.
Anti-Jewish propaganda intensified during the autumn. At pro-Palestinian rallies in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa participants chanted “Kill the Jews” and carried placards equating the Star of David with the Nazi swastika.
There were 21 documented incidents of targeted Internet hate in Canada in 2000, not counting the many websites that disseminate racism and antisemitism. One message warned that they “want to kill Jews… Long live the Klan.” Although there was a significant rise in hate sites promoting antisemitism or white supremacy in the last few years, the rate of increase has slowed down. In addition, since there is no evidence of an increase in followers of white supremacy ideology in North America, the effectiveness of the sites in swaying masses of people to this cause appears to be limited.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
Holocaust Denial and Trivialization
Ernst Zündel, known worldwide for his distribution of hate propaganda published by Samisdat, his own publishing house, and on Zundelsite, his Internet website, has been involved in an ongoing case (over five years) before the Canadian Human Rights Commission (see ASW 1997/8, 1998/9, 1999/2000). In 2000 Zündel lost his motion to have one of the commissioners removed because of reasonable apprehension of bias. Meanwhile, the right extremist Paul Fromm of the Canadian Association for Free Expression seems to have taken over the case from Zündel, who has ceased attending the hearings. This case is significant because it deals not only with Holocaust denial but also with the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Act over the Internet.
Holocaust trivialization runs the gamut of socio-political interactions. For example, a man was assigned the word “Gestapo” as a computer password by his company’s technician and had to explain its offensiveness in order to receive a new password. Various political groups have referred to the policies of their provincial governments as “Nazi-like” or reminiscent of World War II Germany. Equating the swastika with the Star of David appeared to be a popular formula, especially in anti-Israel propaganda and placards of both the extreme right and extremist Muslims.
Holocaust Commemoration and Education
Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta declared Yom ha-Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) to be an official Provincial Memorial Day, bringing the number of provinces to eight (the others are Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and New Brunswick).
The League continued to be involved in several Holocaust education projects in 2000. It again sponsored the “Holocaust and Hope” student study tour to Israel and the Educators’ Study Tour to Germany, Poland and Israel. The program provides Holocaust education to multi-faith groups in the context of anti-racist education in Canada. It also conducted a research project entitled: “Holocaust Education in Canada: A Review and Analysis of Curriculum, Policies, Programs and Teacher Training.”
In order to bolster the availability of Holocaust educational resources and to support the commitment made by Canada at the Stockholm International Forum on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research held in January 2000, the League has prepared the Yom ha-Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) Teacher’s Guide with funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
One of the original members of the Northern Hammerskins in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was arrested in April of 2000 for assault. Eugene Welsh, long involved in the White Power skinhead movement, was also a defendant in a 1997 murder trial.
Donna Upson, a card-carrying member of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and the Nationalist Party, was sent to Nova Scotia on a recruiting drive for one or more of these groups. She was arrested after threatening a black pastor. With several previous convictions for hate-related offenses, Upson was sentenced to two years in prison. The hate motivation of these crimes acted as an aggravating factor upon the sentence, which she is appealing.
Several national and community-based projects to foster tolerance and human rights were launched in 2000, with the active participation of the League. The City of London (Ontario) escalated its initiatives against racism and hate. The League is also assisting London’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Hate Committee to conduct research and to set up an anti-hate hot line. London is becoming a model of a close cooperative effort between police, government and community groups.
“Connecting Communities with Counsel” (CCWC) is a community initiative developed in cooperation with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Equity Department. The CCWC is setting up infrastructure for matching lawyers who are interested in donating their services with community groups concerned with human rights.
In February 2000, to commemorate Black History Month, the League launched the highly acclaimed Black/Jewish Dialogue Program to strengthen this relationship in order to jointly counter racism and antisemitism.