Canada Experiences Alarming Spate of Antisemitic Incidents in Summer Months

Investigators are seen at the scene of a suspected arson attempt at a Montreal kosher bakery.

September 30, 2021

Canada experienced an alarming spate of antisemitism this past summer, with 35 media reports of Jew-hatred incidents tracked by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) from July through September.

Most of the incidents took place in the Toronto area, the epicenter of Canada’s Jewish population, which is the third-largest Diaspora community.

The motives behind the incidents spanned the ideological spectrum, from the far-right to the far-left, as well as the Islamist category. They included acts of physical and verbal assault, vandalism, and hate speech (both online and real-life).

Notable incidents included a man – with a swastika tattoo drawn on his chest — being arrested by Toronto police and charged with a third antisemitic assault within two months; a liquor store employee in Toronto being punched in the face by an attacker who called him a “dirty f*cking Jew”; a kippah-wearing Jewish man being pushed to the ground while walking his dog by a passerby yelling, “Free Palestine”; Jewish worshipers being verbally accosted during outdoor Rosh Hashanah services at an Ottawa synagogue; and multiple arson attempts at Montreal kosher institutions.

There was also a rash of defacements of campaign signs with antisemitic symbols ahead of Canada’s federal election this month, prompting a condemnation by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; a growing trend of Holocaust trivialization at Covid-19 demonstrations, with protesters using Holocaust-era symbols and comparing government health measures to the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

In Toronto, a swastika was graffitied on a synagogue and a highway overpass was spray-painted with messages blaming Jews for the 9/11 terror attacks and the slave trade. In Kelowna, a swastika was daubed next to the parked car of a Jewish man while he was at work. And in Winnipeg, several businesses in a strip mall along the Pembina Highway were covered with swastikas by vandals.

This string of summer incidents in Canada followed a global spike of antisemitism in May linked to a flare-up of violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Canada was not immune to this disturbing trend, with 266 known incidents of antisemitism in May (154 of harassment, 61 of violence, and 51 of vandalism).

According to B’nai Brith Canada, anti-Israel demonstrations often “devolved into open hatefests with blatantly antisemitic, obscene, and violent rhetoric” where Jews were “singled out and targeted for abuse by angry mobs.”

Jews were also targeted in their own neighborhoods, with a number of anti-Israel protesters deliberately traveling there to harass the community and stoke tensions. In one such incident, a group drove around a Jewish neighborhood in Edmonton “asking where the Jews live.”

In 2020, there were more than seven antisemitic incidents per day in Canada, setting a new record for a fifth straight year.

Against this backdrop, the Canadian government convened in July a “National Summit on Antisemitism” to look at ways to tackle the problem. Following the summit, the government committed to a series of initial actions to fight Jew-hatred, including a renewed focus on supporting the work of the honorable Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, who also joined the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) Advisory Board this summer.