Anti-Semitism on the rise across Canada, according to new B'nai Brith statistics

Anti-Semitism is on the rise across Canada, and the Prairies are no longer immune to a rising tide against Jewish people, according to recent statistics from B'nai Brith Canada.

Nearly 80% of the hate-related incidents across Canada occur online

The Prairie Region saw a 142 per cent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 over the previous year. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Anti-Semitism is on the rise across Canada, and the Prairies are no longer immune to a rising tide against Jewish people, according to recent statistics from B'nai Brith Canada.

"The Jewish community among religious communities continues to be one of the most targeted," said Amira Elghawaby, board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Across Canada there were 2,041 incidents recorded in the 2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, a 16.5 per cent increase over the previous year.

Of the incidents reported, only 11 were deemed violent, with the majority falling under harassment.

"The numbers are consistent in terms of what we have been seeing generally from Statistics Canada's own reported hate crimes," she said. "They're not only capturing hate crimes, but also hate incidents, which unfortunately very few police organizations are reporting on." 

December 2018 was an especially hate-filled month, with a total of 349 reports of anti-Semitic acts, the most of any calendar month.

The Prairie Region ranked fifth in 2018 for overall reported incidents with 131, but there was a 142 per cent increase in the number of incidents from the previous year. 

Ran Ukashi, national director for the league for human rights at B'nai Brith Canada, said seeing the steep increase of hate directed toward his community is upsetting.

"More and more people are speaking up and reporting to us, and what that indicates to us is there is a new baseline for anti-Semitic behaviour, which is troubling," he said.

Examples of hate

The examples of hate incidents are broad, with reports ranging from disturbing phone calls to 20 separate incidents of swastika graffiti popping up in August in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In Saskatchewan, two elementary students were assaulted and harassed for their faith. And a Grade 10 student in Winnipeg was mocked for her appearance. 

Most of the hate-related crime tends to be generated online, where there are few barriers or repercussions for sending derogatory, hate-filled messages.

Online safe-haven

B'nai Brith estimates that nearly 80 per cent of hate-related incidents come from online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. 

"More and more people are being exposed to hateful content online … basically where a lot of white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups would have to organize on street corners, now it's much easier to organize online," Elghawaby said.

"We're living in a time where we need to be vigilant."

Elghawaby believes the response from authorities across Canada has not been quick enough to slow the rise of the far-right.

"Our security services seem to be a little slow in realizing how serious these types of movements — the far-right and white supremacist movements — are in Canada," she said. "It cannot be left to the companies to police themselves, we have governments who are supposed to protect and keep people safe."

Assessing hate crimes

B'nai Brith released an eight-point plan to reduce and counter hate incidents, with the majority focusing on holding people accountable through legal limits.

"We believe there should be a standardization of training for hate crime officers, that way people will know how to identify and react to it. It won't be overlooked due to a lack of resources," said Ukashi.

He warns that if concrete action is not taken toward hateful rhetoric, it won't be long before those voicing it become mobilized.

"The biggest concern we have is will the rhetoric take the natural step of violence?" he said. "We're always concerned that if these ideologies spread past the fringe, not necessarily to the mainstream, it could have serious repercussions for the Jewish community."

With most of the hate festering online, Ukashi said now is the time to begin to formulate ways to limit what can be said online, with real consequences for spewing hate.

"You can't have government laws which can be skirted through social media, and social media platforms need to be held accountable for their own community guidelines and service of use agreement," he said.

Other parts of B'nai Brith's plan focus on Holocaust education measures and creating hate-crime units in every city.

Jewish people aren't the only ones being targeted in Canada. Hate crimes against Muslims saw a stark increase year-over-year, and Elghawaby believes it's critical to work together to stamp out hate.

"Just the most recent attack in San Diego, you're seeing lots of positive messages from the Muslim community to the Jewish community, and that was the other way after the New Zealand attack," she said.

"No matter what our background is, it's important for us to be very strong against [hate]."