Suspect charged after swastikas painted on Westmount synagogue

A 28 year-old man has appeared in court after swastikas were painted on the doors of a synagogue in Westmount. Adam Riga was charged with uttering threats and possession of an incendiary device.

28-year-old suspect was arrested at the scene, will undergo psychiatric evaluation

Rabbi Adam Scheier posted photos of the defacement to his Facebook page on Wednesday, assuring the public that everyone is safe. (Adam Scheier/Facebook)

A 28-year-old man appeared in court this morning and was charged with uttering threats and possession of an incendiary device, a day after several swastikas were spray-painted on the doors of a Westmount synagogue.

A security guard spotted the suspicious activity Wednesday afternoon while monitoring the surveillance cameras at the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim on Côte-Saint-Antoine Road, according to a Facebook post by Rabbi Adam Scheier.

The Shaar's security guard immediately went to apprehend the man, Scheier said, and then called for help.

"Within a short time the police arrived and arrested the man," the rabbi said. "The perpetrator had a canister of gasoline with him."

There was no conflict or violence and the suspect was arrested on site as soon as police arrived on the scene, according to a Montreal police spokesperson. Officers opened the canister and confirmed an odour of gasoline.

Scheier posted several photos to Facebook, one of which shows a red gas canister on the street next to a police cruiser.

Scheier said the graffiti has been removed and there is no reason to believe there will be any further attacks against the synagogue, but said "we will remain vigilant as always."

A judge ordered Adam Riga to undergo a psychiatric assessment, and he is due back in court Friday.

The Federation CJA, a Jewish organization, condemned the vandalism. 

"The Jewish community is outraged by today's vile assault on Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount," the federation said in a tweet.

"This attack targets the entire community and all those who embrace civility and tolerance."

In her own tweet, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said, "We strongly and unreservedly condemn these attacks."

Perez calls incident a hate crime

Opposition leader Lionel Perez said this kind of act, which targets a specific minority group, has no place in today's society and should be denounced by everybody.

Perez said security forces aren't always on hand at places like the Shaar Hashomayim, but said it is a good thing they were in this case, as the incident could have been worse.

"It's a signal that these things can still happen in 2021 and we all have to be very vigilant and not take things for granted because we live in an open and tolerant society," Perez said.

He said there is no doubt that this was a hate crime and the Montreal police hate crimes unit should investigate.

Montreal police have confirmed there was a canister on the scene and that there was a smell of gasoline when they opened it. (Adam Scheier/Facebook)

Harvey Levine, B'nai Brith Canada's Quebec Regional Director, said his organization is "horrified and it's just deplorable when these incidents happen."

The Shaar Hashomayim is the largest synagogue in Montreal, he said, and he congratulated the security team for acting so quickly because "who knows what the next move would have been" with that canister of gas.

Levine said B'nai Brith will be working with the Montreal police hate crime unit on this case while keeping the public updated.

"You never know when something like this is going to happen, particularly with our community, which is targeted so often." Levine said.

with files from Matt D'Amours