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'Wake up Canada' truck playing 'Islamophobic' video under investigation in Toronto: police

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Toronto police say their hate crimes unit is investigating after a cube van was seen driving around the city playing what they call an "Islamophobic" video.

A video posted on social media shows an advertising truck playing a video which asks "Is this Yemen? Is this Syria? Is this Iraq?" The video then shows images of Muslims praying, followed by text that says "Wake up Canada. You are under siege."

"What this van was advertising, (is) trying to suggest that Canadian Muslims and communal prayer is something that is threatening and dangerous," Amira Elghawaby, the federal government’s special representative on combatting Islamophobia, told CTV News. "We have really been on edge when it comes to hate targeting our communities and this is just one more example of why people are really worried."

Elghawaby says the message displayed on the truck goes beyond free speech and has stoked fear within the Muslim community.

"We do not want to see another Quebec mosque massacre or a London family attack," she says.

Alghawaby notes that there has been a 500 per cent increase in Islamophobic and antisemitic hate speech online, content that has surged since the attacks of Oct. 7 and the start of the war in Gaza.

According to the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, antisemitic content soared 919 per cent on X (formerly known as Twitter) and 28 per cent on Facebook in the month following Oct. 7. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based advocacy group, says anti-Muslim hate speech on X jumped 422 per cent in the days following the Oct. 7 attacks.

Cities across Canada are also reporting a rise in alleged hate crimes, including Toronto with nearly 190 incidents reported to Toronto police so far this year. Nearly half of those have been antisemitic.

"Let’s be clear, there is a crisis of antisemitism in this country," Richard Marceau, with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told CTV News in an interview. "Now is the time to act. Words are not enough, it’s time for political leaders to actually take action to solve this."

Marceau wants police and political leaders to do more to protect members of the Jewish community, including areas around synagogues and schools that have been the subject of violent attacks.

When it comes to hate speech, Elghawaby urges Canadians to speak up.

"Canada's values of pluralism, of diversity, of respect of people of all backgrounds, those values need to be our north star in this moment," she says.

It’s not clear who organized and paid for the truck, but Toronto Police confirm they have received a number of reports about it from members of the public and are asking anyone with pictures or videos of the truck, to come forward.

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