Toronto

Anti-Semitic graffiti spotted in downtown Toronto

A Toronto man said he recently noticed two swastikas spray-painted in his Queen Street East neighbourhood.

Toronto man finds 2 swastikas spray-painted in his Queen Street East neighbourhood

"To anyone thinking Canadians shouldn't be involved in the current US presidential discourse, it's hard to ignore with a swastika in the car lot beside your apartment on a morning walk for coffee," Toronto resident James Breen wrote when he posted this photo on Facebook this week. (James Breen/Facebook)

A Toronto man said he recently spotted two swastikas spray-painted in his Queen Street East neighbourhood.

James Breen was heading to his apartment on Saturday morning when he noticed a swastika on a car in a parking lot near Richmond Street East and Ontario Street. 

"It stopped me in my tracks when I saw it," Breen, 31, told CBC Toronto.

The car is no longer in the lot, he added. But Breen said he spotted a second swastika on Monday, painted on a vacant building on Ontario Street.

"It was a reminder for me, certainly, that you can't get complacent about the ongoing struggles with racism in our city and our country," said Breen.

Toronto police said they aren't aware of any reports from the public about racist or anti-Semitic graffiti in the neighbourhood.

It was a reminder for me, certainly, that you can't get complacent about the ongoing struggles with racism in our city and our country.- James Breen, Toronto resident

Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Senior Rabbi at Toronto's Beth Tzedek Synagogue, said people in his congregation are anxious about racist and anti-Semitic incidents happening across North America.

"It's indicative of a larger breakdown of social civility and of appropriate public discourse, because we're seeing a shift that allows people to say certain things in public and that creates the ground for these kinds of activities," he said.

"The big concern is, of course, a worry that this can spread and in some way infect our society here in Canada."

Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Senior Rabbi at Toronto's Beth Tzedek Synagogue, during an appearance on CBC's Metro Morning this week. (Metro Morning)

Frydman-Kohl said Jewish communal institutions are "on alert."

"The Holocaust didn't begin with people being killed," he said. "It began with words that accelerated into hate speech that became amplified into acts of vandalism — and then it became large-scale violence."

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