Toronto police seeking public's help in investigation of anti-Semitic incidents
Published Wednesday, February 22, 2017 2:37PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 22, 2017 10:14PM EST
Toronto police are asking for the public’s help as they search for a suspect after anti-Semitic notes were found on the doors of several Jewish residences in a building in the city’s north end.
At a news conference Wednesday, Sgt. Lawrence Sager said that investigators are “confident that whoever is responsible for this crime will be brought to justice.”
There have been other anti-Semitic attacks across the country in the past few days, including at a high school in east Vancouver. It was sprayed with graffiti depicting Hitler and the words “prepare 2 be gassed.”
According to Statistics Canada, Jews are the most targetted minority group in Canada. They are eight times more likely to be the victims of hate crimes.
Jewish groups say the justice system is reluctant to pursue allegations of hate crimes. A recent case is Holocaust denier Alfred Schaefer. His online videos incited hate and were flagged to police, but it was only last week, when he travelled to Germany, that he was arrested by local authorities and charged with criminal incitement.
The Toronto anti-Semitic incidents occurred last week, when Post-It notes with slurs and swastikas were found on the front doors of several Jewish residences in a North York building.
Some residents reported that their mezuzahs – a small blessing on a scroll that is posted on the doorways of Jewish homes – had been vandalized or stolen.
Police launched an investigation and are receiving tips from the public daily, however Sager said they have “no new information with regard to a specific individual.”
Det. Sgt. Sean Brosnan told the news conference that police have obtained video from the building, but did not provide further information.
Several members of Toronto’s Jewish community, as well as Mayor John Tory, attended the news conference Wednesday, to assure residents that those responsible will be held accountable.
Tory denounced the incidents, and said here is no place in Toronto for “acts of hatred,” that have been directed at both the Jewish and Muslim communities in recent days.
“It is our collective responsibility to say ‘no’ to this kind of behaviour,” Tory said, adding all citizens should not “stand back and do nothing about this and say it’ll blow over, but rather to speak up about it, to do something about it, to help police.”
Rabbi Moshe Steiner, director of Uptown Chabad, said he had spoken with several of the victims in the days after the incident, and they were “understandably, very shaken up. They were scared.”
Steiner noted that some of the residents’ damaged or stolen mezuzahs were replaced almost immediately.
“The answer to this hateful type of attack is absolutely not to say, ‘Let’s recede into the shadows, let’s keep a lower profile,’” Steiner said. “We cannot do that.”
He added: “Let’s use this crisis to come together as a community and become even stronger.”
Brosnan told the news conference that any suspect arrested in connection with the incident would potentially be charged with theft and mischief.
The case would also receive a “designation of hate crime or hate bias.”
Meanwhile, a member of the Jewish Defence League said Wednesday that a complaint had been filed with police over a sermon that was delivered at Masjid Toronto, a mosque located in the city’s downtown core.
In a message posted on their website earlier this week, Masjid Toronto wrote that it had come to their attention that an “inappropriate supplication that was offensive to those of Jewish faith” was made in the organization’s downtown mosque. “Such language is unacceptable and against the values and practices of the Muslim Association of Canada, Masjid Toronto and the Muslim Community at large.”
In the wake of the sermon, Masjid Toronto is holding an Open House on Saturday to learn “about our community, history and culture.”
With a report from CTV's Peter Akman in Toronto