Toronto police investigate complaints of hate graffiti at university
Toronto police are investigating reports that swastikas were drawn in a classroom at a local university, while another university has fired a teaching assistant after he allegedly made an anti-Semitic statement at a mosque.
Carmela Murdocca, a York University professor, showed CTV Toronto where the apparent swastikas were etched into a wooden panel inside a classroom and drawn in chalk.
Murdocca said the drawing etched into a wall was “not unlike the others that have appeared in the classroom,” which she said were found last fall carved into wooden lecterns and on computer screens.
“They were obviously espousing some sort of hate towards Jewish students here at York,” she said.
The university’s executive director of community safety, Samina Sami, called the symbols "hate graffiti" and said that an “anti-Semitic statement” was found in the classroom.
"We stand against all forms of hate, and anti-Semitism is not tolerated on our campuses and does not reflect our value of inclusion," Sami added, according to a written statement.
Student Freya Clews said she showed up for her 8 a.m. class Monday only to be told it was cancelled. She said she saw swastikas, one of which she said was “drawn wrong.”
Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash said officers “saw some drawings which might be Nazi swastikas but it’s not clear at this point.” The incident is being investigated as an act of mischief.
Avi Benolo, President and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust, called the drawings a “hate crime,” adding that “the prevalence of anti-Semitism at York University is not new.”
The university has experienced complaints of anti-Semitism for decades. Just last year, the York Federation of Students refused to take down a mural in the student centre that Benolo called a “call to murder.”
The graffiti was reported on the same day Concordia University in Montreal was partially evacuated following threatening emails targeting Muslim students.
Meanwhile, a teaching assistant at Ryerson University was fired after he allegedly made an offensive statement against Jews at a downtown mosque, according to Jewish rights group B’nai Brith Canada.
Ryerson University President Mohamed Lachemi issued a statement Monday stating that, after an investigation by the school’s human rights services, human resources department and legal team, “the university has taken appropriate action.”
“We understand how something of this nature can impact the climate for our Jewish students and our Jewish community,” Lachemi added.
“We continue to be committed to broadening education and awareness of anti-Semitism and we remain actively engaged in addressing any anti-Semitism in our community,” his statement went on.
The teaching assistant issued a statement on Twitter that said: “Neither I, Masjid Toronto or the congregation harbour any form of hate toward Jews. And so I wish to apologize unreservedly for misspeaking during prayers last Ramadan.”
“In my supplication my intention was to refer to a very specific political situation that is the result of military occupation,” his statement continued. “I sincerely regret the offence that my words must have caused.”
Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, commended Ryerson University’s administration for “dealing with this serious matter” after “a difficult year for Jewish students on campus.”
B’nai Brith was referring to an earlier incident where students from the Ryerson chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association walked out of a student union meeting so that a vote could not be held on a motion to support Holocaust Education Week.
With a report from CTV Toronto and Peter Akman