there were no obvious Middle East triggers, Canada recorded an overall increase
of 11.4 percent in antisemitic incidents in 2007 (albeit a slight fall in
violence and vandalism). Quebec, especially, witnessed an escalation of 28.8
percent, with 226 incidents out of the country’s total of 1,042. Reports of
antisemitic activity on campus more than doubled. Verdicts were handed down in
a number of cases relating to the dissemination of antisemitic and racist
material on the Internet.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
According to the 2006 Statistics
Canada census, there are approximately 315,120 Jews in Canada out of a total population of 33,223,840. This figure represents a significant drop from the
2001 census figure of 348,605. The main Jewish centers experienced a
significant decrease: for example, Toronto from 179,255 to 177,255, Montreal, from 92,970 to 68,485, and Vancouver, from 22,585 to 21,465. Jewish communal
organizations generally regard these figures as an underestimation since the
2006 census was based only on questions regarding ethnic origin; the question relating
to religious origin is asked only once every ten years.
The main advocacy organizations are B'nai Brith Canada and the Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA). CIJA oversees the activities of the
Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and National Jewish
Campus Life. B'nai Brith Canada maintains an independent parallel structure
with its League for Human Rights (henceforth, the League), Canada Israel Public
Affairs Committee (CIPAC), and Campus Action Initiative.
Swastikas and Nazi-related symbols featured prominently in 151 incidents
in the vandalism category of antisemitic manifestations reported in 2007. The
fact that a number of police forces have ceased classifying the swastika as an
antisemitic incident without further proof of motivation might account for the drop
of 20 percent from the 188 cases recorded in 2006.
White supremacists combine Internet activity with
gatherings in public places. They held rallies in a number of cities in Canada, including Calgary, where a group calling itself the Aryan Guard recruited, handed out
flyers, held meetings and conversed via the Internet. They also had street
meetings in Montreal and London. Two Atlantic universities − Dalhousie
and Saint Mary’s University − attempted to bring in US-based Jared
Taylor, an individual closely identified with the white supremacist movement,
for a debate on race-related issues. The universities however withdrew their
invitations when concerns were brought to their attention by Jewish communal
organizations and anti-racist activists.
In 2007, 1,043 incidents were reported to the League, as documented in its Audit
of Antisemitic Incidents, up 11.4 percent from the previous year. A five-year view
shows numbers have almost doubled since the 584 incidents reported in 2003.
Over the last 10 years, there has been an overall upward trend, with incidents
jumping more than four-fold. In Quebec, where a fierce debate has been
raging over the reasonable accommodation of the needs of religious and ethnic
minorities, there were 291 incidents, an increase of 28.8 percent from the 226
cases reported in 2006. A significant rise in rural, as opposed to urban,
settings was noted in both Ontario and Quebec.
Violence, Vandalism, Harassment and Graffiti
Of the total, 699 were cases of harassment (67.1 percent) compared to 588 in 2006. There were 315 cases of vandalism, down marginally from the 317 cases in 2006. In addition, 28 cases involved violence, compared to 30 in 2006. Despite this slight fall, Toronto (Greater Toronto Area) showed a jump from 16 to 20 cases, in line with an
apparent trend towards increasing violence in Toronto’s inner city in recent
Within the harassment category, the number of
outright threats of violence, such as death threats, bomb threats and threats
of physical assault increased from 82 in 2006 to 95 in 2007. Despite the slight decline in vandalism, in Regional Quebec (excluding Montreal – see below)
and Regional Ontario (excluding Ottawa and Toronto) significant increases were
recorded. Manitoba also saw a 33.3 percent increase in vandalism from 12
incidents in 2006 to 16 in 2007. In British Columbia, the number of vandalism incidents,
which had doubled from 9 in 2005 to 18 in 2006, rose further to 20 in 2007.
Twenty two vandalism incidents involved synagogues in
2007, compared to 42 in 2006 and 35 in 2005. The province of Ontario had the most (seven) and British Colombia had two. Synagogues in Montreal (QC),
Winnipeg (MB) and Edmonton (AB) were also targeted. A swastika, accompanied by
the words “This means you, get out!!!” defaced an Edmonton synagogue as it was
celebrating its 100th anniversary early in 2007. This same synagogue was
firebombed in 2000. On Holocaust Memorial Day, a synagogue in Richmond was
vandalized with graffiti, which included swastikas and a noose drawing, with
the hung man identified by the word “Jew.” Six Jewish community centers, were
targeted, including the firebombing of a Montreal Jewish community center during
the Passover holiday.
Better security at these institutions – for which the
Jewish community bears the financial burden – has no doubt contributed to the
decrease in such incidents. Further, the Federal Government has launched a
program to provide partial security grants to communities at risk, the first
monies being released in 2008.
There were nine cemetery desecrations in 2007, compared
to only one in 2006 and two in 2005. An Ottawa Jewish cemetery was vandalized
three times over a three-month period in 2007, with a total of more than 66
tombstones being desecrated.
The number of private homes vandalized increased to
132 from 118 in 2006. Damage included antisemitic graffiti, destruction of
property and desecration of mezuzahs, This represents a 38.9 percent increase
over a five-year span. Victim statements make it clear that the targeting of
Jews in their homes in increasing numbers has intensified the community's sense
The language in graffiti cases often included death
threats. Some vandals attacked multiple sites in smaller urban centers such as Welland, Kingston, Georgina and Niagara Falls in Ontario.
There were 31 cases related directly to the victim's
workplace, a decrease from the 49 cases noted in 2006. On-the-job harassment by
fellow employees and supervisors continued, and often followed refusals to
accommodate requests for religious days. Seven incidents took place in
government settings, with one employee receiving repeated threats to cause bodily harm.
The ethnic origin of the perpetrators of reported incidents was analyzed
where relevant information was available. This was possible in face-to-face
encounters where there was self-identification by the perpetrator. In 2007
there were 24 cases involving acts of harassment, vandalism and violence where
the perpetrators identified themselves as being of Arab origin, a decrease from
the 68 cases in 2006. These incidents included the firebombing of a Jewish community
center in Montreal, assaults against visibly Jewish teenagers, and an Arab
doctor telling his Jewish patient that “Jews start all wars.” Other ethnic
groups that self-identified in the year's total incidents were: Chinese (2),
Polish (4), German (4), Aboriginal (2), Hungarian (4) and Romanian (1).
There were no obvious Middle East triggers in 2007 to
link to incidents in Canada, apart from the usual ongoing animosity towards the
Jewish community engendered by anti-Israel campaigns on campus and,
increasingly, in high schools. However, spikes in January (121 incidents) and
in November (143) might be attributed to international and domestic events. The
January escalation can be explained, perhaps, by the genocidal statements of Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in late 2006 and the controversy over Canadian Professor
Shiraz Dossa who attended Iran’s Holocaust denial conference, which continued
The marked increase in reported incidents during
November – the highest number in the entire year – especially in the Province
of Quebec (99 out of the total of 143 for the whole of Canada), suggests an
obvious link to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission hearings into the issue of reasonable
accommodation of the needs of religious and ethnic minorities, which took place
from October-December 2007 (see General
Analysis). The public format of the Commission and the laissez faire
attitude of the commissioners until relatively late in the proceedings, meant
that bigots were given a virtually unrestricted public platform and unlimited
free publicity to disseminate their prejudices and petty grievances against
many different minorities, including Jews. Regional Quebec witnessed an almost
four-fold increase in antisemitic manifestations, from 11 cases in 2006 to 42 in 2007.
Campuses and Schools
There was a dramatic escalation in antisemitic activity on university
campuses – more than double the 36 cases in 2006 to 78 in 2007. Jewish students continually complain that their experiences with prejudice and
discrimination are being marginalized, and their religious practices
denigrated. Antisemitic acts, including threats of violence against Jewish
students, which spread across major Canadian campuses in 2007, were directly linked
to anti-Israel activity. Many students reported feeling intimidated as a result
of the poisoned environment created by the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” hate
fest at the University of Toronto. This led 125 professors to come together for
the first time in a full-page ad in the National Post in March 2008,
protesting the university’s actions in hosting the event each year.
The charged atmosphere on campus can be seen in a
lawsuit brought by a Jewish professor, David Noble, against his university
(York) and a number of Jewish organizations for defamation. The professor
alleged that they had labeled him antisemitic, based on a flyer distributed in
2004 criticizing the administration for its pro-Israel bias and the influence
of Jewish donors. Although he claimed almost one million dollar in damages,
the court ordered the university to pay Noble $2,500 for violating his academic
freedom to speak out. Noble has also launched a human rights complaint against
the university regarding its long-standing policy to cancel classes on the
Jewish high holidays.
There were 82 incidents in school settings, an
increase of 51.9 percent over the 54 recorded the previous year. Seventeen
involved private Jewish day schools, notably assaults against Jewish students
in Toronto, but the vast majority of these incidents occurred in the public
system. Concerted efforts underway to import anti-Israel propaganda into the
high school classroom may partly account for this increase. Groups known for
their anti-Israel activity on campus have now formed high school groups
offering ongoing anti-Israel programming to younger students throughout the
Cross-borrowing between neo-Nazi sympathizers and far-left extremists has
found expression in the latter using Holocaust imagery to attack Israel, and far right groups using anti-Israel rhetoric to mask their anti-Jewish
animosity. The alliance between right and left was evident in a number of the
incidents that occurred in 2007. For example, a university
student active in advancing anti-Israel messaging on campus joined with left
wing student activists protesting rising tuition fees.
Three hundred and ten reports of web-based hate activity with a Canadian
connection in terms of content, perpetrators and/or victims were received by
the League's Anti-Hate Hotline, an increase of 22 percent over the 254 cases
recorded in 2006 and an almost two-fold increase compared to the 164 cases
recorded in 2005.
Nearly one-third involved threatening or harassing
communications. There is a growing trend towards the use of blogs and social
networking communities to disseminate hate material. Internet sites containing such
material included Canadian-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. These
sites were used to publicize rock festivals and group meetings. In one case,
organizers of a concert by a touring rock group from Europe quickly and easily
spread word via Internet social networking groups of an alternative location
when their original concert venue was cancelled by the site owners due to
concerns about racist content in the group’s music.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
There were 55 cases of Holocaust denial, down from 61 reported in 2006,
but a significant increase from the 17 recorded in 2003. However, the vocal condemnation
of the Canadian professor who attended the 2006 Iranian Holocaust denial
conference by his university as well as by public figures illustrated a
widespread societal repugnance towards this form of antisemitism. The majority
of cases of Holocaust denial involved web-based communications.
The persistence of Holocaust denial in Canada is clearly fuelled by ongoing neo-Nazi and white supremacist activities in Canada and other countries. The high profile cases before the criminal courts and human
rights tribunals no doubt fuelled some of the incidents (see below).
Commemoration and Education
In 2007, Canada
began the process of seeking full membership in the Task Force for
International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research,
prompting a call for furthering Holocaust education, moving ahead with Nazi war
criminal cases, and amending its archival policy so that all files relating to
suspected Nazi-era war criminals in Canada who have since died become available
to Holocaust researchers.
Community events commemorating the nationally proclaimed Holocaust
Memorial Day are held in various cities including the capital Ottawa. The Law
Society of Upper Canada, the organization representing lawyers of the province of Ontario holds a commemoration event each year in partnership with the League;
the theme in 2007 was how the law has failed to prevent genocides such as the
The League for Human Rights Holocaust and Hope Testimonial Series was
launched in late 2007 with the publication of Ten Marks and a Train Ticket –
Benno’s Escape to Freedom, which describes the experiences of a child of
the Kindertransport who escaped from Germany and eventually made his home in Canada. This book has been distributed to schools and libraries across Canada, as well as to Holocaust education centers worldwide, and is currently being used as a
resource by educators teaching the Holocaust, as well as a in new course on
genocide being taught through the Toronto District School Board.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
Legal and Legislative Activity
As in 2006, just over one-third of the cases reported to the League were
also reported by the victims to the police: 372 out of the total 1,042
incidents in 2007. Eighteen charges were laid in connection with incidents
reported to the police compared to 15 in 2006.
Attacks on Montreal communal sites resulted in the
League issuing yet another call to institute dedicated hate crime units in that
city. The need for such units is illustrated by the remark of the rabbi of a Montreal synagogue vandalized in 2007 who said that police investigating the incident did
not understand the anti-Jewish significance of the graffiti used. Similar
concerns were raised in Bowmanville, Ontario, where a family’s rental property
was largely destroyed by wanton vandalism, including antisemitic graffiti.
Police indicated that despite the obvious anti-Jewish nature of the graffiti,
the matter would not proceed as a hate crime due to the lack of definitive
evidence as to motivation. The family’s frustration only increased when charges
against a suspect were dropped.
On the other hand, Jean Sébastien Pressault, a
Quebec resident who pled guilty in 2006 to hate crime charges relating to
antisemitic and racist content on his website, was sentenced to six months
imprisonment in a decision handed down early in 2007. When it was discovered subsequently
that a link to his website had resurfaced, the authorities were alerted by the
In fall 2007, the trial concluded in Prince George, British Columbia, of white supremacist Keith Francis William (Bill) Noble on
charges that he "willfully promote[d] hatred against identifiable groups.”
These charges were in connection to the posting of hate material targeting
Jews, blacks and others on the Internet. He was sentenced to four months
imprisonment in February 2008. This marked only the second time that such a
crime has been successfully prosecuted in the province. Commenting on the case,
the BC hate crime team noted “that the content of the website and the content
of what he posted were offensive enough to meet [the] high standard [of the Criminal
Concerns about this standard will be the focus in the
retrial of David Ahenakew, the Aboriginal leader who made antisemitic comments
to a reporter at a conference in December 2002 (see ASW 2002-3).
The Crown has opted not to appeal the decision of the Saskatchewan courts to
set aside an earlier conviction, but instead to retry the matter. The League
has raised concerns that statements at the Court of Appeal level have
introduced added requirements not set out in the Code as to what the Crown
would have to prove in order to get a conviction.
A number of cases relating to incidents reported in
2007 will make their way through the courts in 2008. These include charges
relating to vandalism attacks in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, where suspects involved in synagogue targeting were identified, as well as against
individuals involved in assaults on school boys in Toronto and Montreal.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal reached decisions
under the governing Canadian Human Rights Act in several Internet-related
complaints in 2007 concerning white supremacist material. In February, former Saskatchewan lecturer Terry Tremaine was ordered to pay a fine of $4,000 for his
hate-filled postings on the Internet against Jews and other groups. He is now to
face charges of promoting hate in violation of the Criminal Code. A similar
fine was imposed by the Tribunal on the respondent in Warman v. Wilkinson over
his calls for violent acts against Jews and other groups. (Warman is a citizen who has filed a number of
successful complaints against individuals posting white supremacist material on
In October, the Tribunal reached a decision in the
case of Warman v. Beaumont, fining the respondent $1,500 for racist
Internet postings. Jessica Beaumont was also ordered not to post on the
A number of other Internet-related cases will
continue into 2008, including complaints against Melissa Guille (Heritage
Alliance) and Marc Lemire (Freedomsite), where hearings have yet to be
completed. The League is an intervener in the Lemire case. The League has also
filed complaints in British Columbia, alleging that two separate websites
contain virulent antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionist rhetoric.
Throughout the year, a trial based on the first charges under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act passed in 2002 proceeded against Momin Khawaja, a software
developer, who is alleged among other things to have acted as a courier for
terrorists in a plot to place bombs in public locations. The trial of a group
of 18 Muslim men arrested in 2006 on allegations that they were planning to
commit acts of terrorism, including decapitation of the Canadian prime minister
proceeded. Intelligence reports continued to warn of the presence of terrorist
elements in Canada.
Nazi War Criminals
The Ninth Annual
Report on Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Program 2005-2006 was
released by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Department of
Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada in 2007. According to the report,
218 allegations have not moved beyond the initial stages; 37 active files were
being investigated and 7 cases were under litigation.
In January 2008, Michael Seifert, who tortured and killed at least 18
prisoners in Italy’s Bolzano concentration camp between 1944 and 1945, was
extradited to Italy to face the life sentence imposed on him in absentia after
losing all appeals in Canada (see ASW 2000-1 and
subsequent reports). Following a 2007 federal court ruling, it is now in the
hands of the federal cabinet to revoke Seifert’s Canadian citizenship obtained
by deception. Revocation proceedings against Jura Skomatczuk and Josef
Furman, both former guards at the Travniki concentration camp in Poland, were ongoing in the federal court (see ASW 2004).
In May the federal government announced that it would revoke the citizenship of
Walter Oberlander and Jacob Fast clearing the way for their deportation.
However, the Federal government also announced that it would not be proceeding
to strip the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky (a guard at the SS forced labor camps
of Trawniki and Poniatowa) and Vladimir Katriuk (a member of a Nazi mobile
killing unit), despite court rulings in revocation proceedings that they were
each guilty of lying about their war-time past on entry (see ASW 2002-3).
In August B’nai Brith Canada announced that it had launched a court challenge
seeking judicial review of that decision in light of a flawed process in which
the federal cabinet was fed selective testimony not representative of the
submissions of Jewish victims. Counsel for Wasyl Odynsky filed a motion arguing
that B’nai Brith Canada had no standing in the matter. The case was ongoing in
tolerance and understanding continues to be the focus of public education
efforts by Jewish communal organizations. In order to meet the need for
accurate information on the reasonable accommodation issue, the cause of much
public misconception, as well as on anti-racism issues in general, the League
published a series of pamphlets to educate Canadians on their rights and
responsibilities, and to draw attention to the pressing issues of bigotry and
prejudice in society. In addition, the League holds an annual Student Human
Rights Awards to encourage grade school students from a range of backgrounds to
engage creatively on issues relating to human rights.
Public schools and educators can also take advantage of outreach and
educational programming offered by Holocaust education centrers based in
communities across Canada, and by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for
Holocaust Studies which runs a Tools for Tolerance program. Several grassroots
initiatives also exist, such as the “Walking Together,” project created by
Edmonton-based Rabbi David Kunin, which is designed to encourage understanding
of religious diversity in Canada among school-age children.