Officials in Ottawa and Toronto are investigating a string of hate crimes targeting places of worship and schools.
On Friday, Ottawa police confirmed two occurrences of hate graffiti, saying that they received a call about red swastikas and racial slurs spray-painted on a local church.
“The racial epithet that was used, it was directed at black people, myself as the pastor here,” Rev. Anthony Bailey, whose Parkdale United Church was targeted, told CTV Ottawa. “Some of the vitriol that has come from south of the border has emboldened people to say, ‘You know, I’ve harboured these sentiments for a long time, I feel permitted to do this now, to act it out.’”
Less than an hour later, police confirmed another incident at an Ottawa mosque, making it the fifth incident in the city since Sunday, Nov. 13. On Friday, local community members gathered at the mosque to help clean up the paint on the doors.
Earlier this week, Ottawa’s Jewish community was also targeted in three separate incidents. The most recent one happened Wednesday night at the Machzikei Hadas synagogue in southeast Ottawa, where swastikas were spray-painted on the door and anti-Semitic graffiti splashed over its brick walls. On Tuesday, similar symbols were sprayed on the door of a woman who runs a Jewish prayer centre in the Glebe. An Israeli synagogue, Ottawa’s oldest, was also targeted on Sunday, Nov. 13.
“These words are far more than just words,” Rabbi Idan Scher told CTV Ottawa. “These words are representative and bring back very, very scary images in our history.”
The Ottawa Police Hate Crimes Unit is involved and is still investigating the incidents. Police believe all five are related.
“There’s no question that (with) the type, the frequency and the condensed timeframe… that there’s a link there,” Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau told CTV Ottawa.
Members of the community are outraged and demonstrations of support have come from across the country.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted: “These actions are disgusting and not reflective of our community.”
Again more racist graffiti at a church and a mosque overnight. These actions are disgusting and not reflective of our community. /2— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) November 18, 2016
“To have this kind of despicable language and symbolism on mosques and churches and synagogues, is not the Ottawa that we all know,” Watson later told CTV Ottawa.
Canadian hip-hop artist Jesse Dangerously posted a photo on Instagram of one of last night’s incidents with the caption: “Brand new Nazi graffiti on the door of Parkdale United Church one block from my house. I'm sorry for putting the slur in your feeds. I feel sick about it.”
Earlier this week, in response to the hate crimes targeted at the Jewish community, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “To the Canadian Jewish community: I stand with you. Our government denounces recent acts of anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”
Conservative MPs issued statements on Friday condemning the hateful acts in Ottawa.
David Anderson, the Official Opposition Critic for International Human Rights and Religious Freedom, said: “Conservatives condemn, in the strongest of terms, the hateful acts against Ottawa houses of worship in the past week.”
Garnett Genuis, the Deputy Critic for International Human Rights and Religious Freedom, added: “Acts of hatred against one group of Canadians is an attack on us all.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said hate crimes must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“These events have occurred in Canada and they are unacceptable in Canada,” Goodale told CTV News.
Meanwhile, in Toronto the public school board is investigating multiple racist incidents.
The Toronto District School Board has sent an email to parents about “a number of disturbing incidents of racism and hate”.
TDSB condemned these acts writing: “These acts of hate have no place in our city and will not be tolerated.”
The email doesn’t go into details about the occurrences, but according to local media there were signs posted near schools denouncing multiculturalism.