Antisemitism in Canada at record levels in 2021 with surge in violence, audit finds

B'nai Brith Canada says there were record levels of antisemitism in Canada last year, with sharp increases in Quebec and British Columbia. The group's legal counsel also says universities were 'breeding grounds' for antisemitism.

B'nai Brith Canada legal counsel says universities 'breeding grounds' for antisemitism

Canada saw record levels of antisemitism in 2021, audit finds

2 years ago
Duration 2:17
WARNING: This video contains distressing details | Jewish organization B’nai Brith says 2021 was a record year for reports of antisemitism across Canada, marked by a surge in violent incidents compared to the previous year.

Record levels of antisemitism were recorded in Canada last year, with sharp increases in Quebec and British Columbia, according to a report published on Sunday.

The annual audit by Jewish advocacy group B'nai Brith found there were 2,799 anti-Jewish hate crimes, including beatings, vandalism of synagogues and swastikas in schools.

Antisemitic incidents rose overall by seven per cent from the year before, but the number of violent incidents increased by more than 700 per cent, from nine in 2020 to 75 in 2021.

In one recorded incident, a man allegedly gave a Nazi salute before assaulting a woman at a Toronto subway station, the report said.

In another, an employee at an Ontario liquor store was assaulted by a customer who called him a "dirty f---king Jew."

In June, Montreal Kosher Bakery was firebombed.

The report found there was a surge in anti-Jewish hate crimes last May coinciding with escalating violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Jewish pro-Israel demonstrators were beaten, had rocks thrown at them and were spat on.

At an anti-Israel rally in Winnipeg, a man paraded a sign showing a figure dumping a star of David in a garbage can over the slogan, "Please keep the world clean.

Most targeted religious minority

David Matas, senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith, said the Jewish community "leads the list" of minorities subjected to religious hatred.

"If you are Jewish, you are more likely to be a victim of a hate crime by far than if you are a member of another minority," Matas said.

He told a news conference in Ottawa that there was a "surge" in antisemitic incidents on university campuses.

A sign for a provincial courthouse is vandalized with a swastika.
Antisemitic graffiti is seen on the sign outside the provincial courthouse in Ottawa on Nov. 15, 2021. Graffiti was also found on the side of the building. (Simon Lasalle/CBC)

The report said post-secondary institutions were "significant breeding grounds for antisemitism," with Jewish students increasingly reporting vandalism and threats of violence.

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman said there is a "rising tide of antisemitism in this country," not just among the far-right but also among university faculty.

"Antisemitism is one of the ugliest manifestations of racism," she said.

The report found harassment of Jewish Canadians dropped slightly to 2,460 incidents in 2021 from 2,483 in 2020. But there was a rise of 12 per cent in online hate, attributed to more people communicating online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B'nai Brith, which verifies incidents, found that some Jewish candidates in the federal election, including Montreal-based Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, had their posters daubed with swastikas.

At a news conference in Ottawa on Monday, Housefather called antisemitism "a grave problem."

He said he personally witnessed people in a car driving down a busy street in his constituency "screaming insults" out the windows, including "kill the Jews, kill the Jews."

The MP said the abuse frightened many constituents and that one asked if she should remove the mezuzah — a small decorative case containing lines from the Torah — from outside her door because it would identify her household as Jewish.

Quebec reported most incidents

Marvin Rotrand, national director of B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights, outlined "troubling trends" in a number of provinces.

The most reported antisemitic incidents last year occurred in Quebec, which saw 828 incidents in 2021, up from 686 a year earlier.

British Columbia experienced a 111 per cent increase from 2020 to 2021 — from 194 to 409, including 56 cases of vandalism and 296 incidents of online abuse and hatred.

Anti-Jewish abuse sharply increased in Alberta and more than doubled in the Prairies and Nunavut.

In Atlantic Canada, the number of reported incidents declined to 80 last year from 199 in 2020.

Ontario had the second-highest number of reports on antisemitic incidents in 2021, but the 821 incidents were a drop from 1,130 a year earlier.

New Democrat MP Randall Garrison, who represents Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, said he was shocked by the rise in cases in B.C., noting that online communication "has made it easier for the haters to be heard."

The report included a case in Richmond, B.C., where a wooden post with the message "COVID is Jew World Order" was found on a busy street.