Canada's Jewish community faced 'disturbing and elevated level of violence' in 2022, B'nai Brith says
CEO says there were 25 incidents of violence against Jewish people in 2022
Reported incidents of antisemitism in Canada declined slightly last year from their all-time peak in 2021, B'nai Brith Canada said Monday, noting that the change is so small as to be "almost insignificant."
There were 2,769 antisemitic incidents recorded in 2022, compared to 2,799 the year before, CEO Michael Mostyn said at a press conference in Ottawa.
The majority of antisemitism happened online, he said, but there were 25 incidents of violence in 2022 — down from 75 the year before.
"It must be recalled, however, that many of the 75 acts of violence in 2021 were connected to the May conflict between Hamas and Israel, which acted as a trigger against Canadian Jewry," Mostyn said. "Twenty-five acts of violence in 2022 still represents a disturbing and elevated level of violence above the historical norm in Canada."
Mostyn said audits like this one can't capture all incidents of antisemitism in the country, as many go unreported.
The organization collects reports of antisemitism through an app, its website and a dedicated phone line, in addition to consulting with police departments. B'nai Brith said it contacted 92 police forces, but some were unable to provide data.
But Mostyn said it's important to look at what numbers do exist.
Statistics Canada last month released data for hate crimes in 2021, the same year B'nai Brith reported being an all-time high for antisemitism. It said hate crimes reported by police rose to 3,360 from 2,646 in 2020.
It found that in 2021, more than half of hate crimes motivated by religion targeted Jewish people.
"The league has been publishing its audit of antisemitic incidents since 1982 in order to track the trend lines for this particular form of hatred, so that we can better understand how we are doing as a society and better learn how to confront it," he said.
The organization uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism, which includes Holocaust denial, making dehumanizing claims against Jews or the Jewish people and claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
Most incidents occurred online
Incidents of antisemitism have more than doubled in the last decade, according to the audit. In large part, that's due to the rise of social media, B'nai Brith said.
Of the antisemitism recorded last year, 74 per cent of incidents occurred online, including social media posts and comments.
"The haters have discovered anonymity and the ability to reach a large audience and spread misinformation and disinformation," said Marvin Rotrand, director of B'nai Brith's advocacy arm, the League for Human Rights.
"The level of online hate underscores the need for legislation that can effectively blunt online hate."
Liberal member of Parliament Anthony Housefather agreed, saying legislation must target social media platforms.
"The platforms cannot hold themselves to account properly. They need, at this point, to have regulation," he said at the press conference.
That regulation, he said, should force social media platforms to uphold their codes of conduct, be transparent about their algorithms and conduct their own audits into antisemitism.
The Liberals have said the Department of Canadian Heritage is working on drafting an online hate bill to set up a framework to combat abuse online.
A previous anti-hate bill, introduced at the tail end of the last Parliament, died when the election was called.
Meanwhile, the NDP proposed an emergency debate on hate crimes for Monday evening.