Reports Of Antisemitic And Islamophobic Incidents Spiking Across Canada

Incidents targeting the Jewish and Muslim communities have increased significantly since the October 7 attack by Hamas and the declaration of war by Israel. 

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Rose Butler/Unsplash

The sounds of a shattering window woke up the residents of Winnipeg’s River Heights neighbourhood at 4:30 am on Sunday, October 22.

Believed to be targeted due to a visible religious symbol on the door, law enforcement said that further examination of the scene quickly revealed the object that broke the glass was a bullet. Far from the only incident of its kind, Winnipeg police told the press that the window was the latest in a series of hate-motivated crimes impacting the city. 

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In Winnipeg, this has meant egging, graffiti, threats, and now the shooting. Across the country, allegedly hate-motivated incidents towards both Jews and Muslims have increased across Canada since the surprise attack against Israeli civilians by Hamas and Israel’s subsequent and ongoing bombing of Palestinian civilians and Hamas in Gaza.

One of the earliest reported incidents occurred shortly after the start of the war, resulting in the arrest of three males on October 12. The three allegedly made threats while on the property of the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (CHAT), according to the Toronto Police Service.

Police identified 20-year-old Enes Boydak, as well as a 17 and 14-year-old boy, as the alleged perpetrators.

United Jewish Appeal (UJA), a large Jewish advocacy organization that funds Jewish and Israeli groups throughout Canada, released an email providing more information. 

“Police informed us that no one has been injured and no attempted stabbing has taken place,” UJA Federation of Toronto said in an email newsletter on the day of the incident. “Verbal threats were made and police are now on scene, including Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw. An investigation of the involved parties is currently underway, with possible charges pending.”

TPS has since released a statement saying there will be an “increased police presence” at “Jewish and Palestinian gathering places.”

Since the attack by Hamas, and the response by the Israeli state, there has been an increasing amount of Islamophobic and antisemitic harassment, graffiti, threats, and more directed at institutions and individuals.

Toronto Police are also investigating two hate-motivated incidents involving mezuzahs. In one incident, a mezuzah, an important Jewish religious object displayed on the outside of a doorframe, was stolen from a home. In the other incident, police said in a post to Twitter that “hateful remarks were made.”

Part of a worrying trend for the city, according to the TPS Chief Demkiw, there have been 237 hate crime incidents in Toronto as of October 19. The same time last year, there were 192. 

Demkiw told the press that between October 7 and 25, there were 15 reported crimes related to antisemitism and five were related to Islamophobia.

Police reported hate crimes may suggest trends, but aren’t an accurate measurement for a variety of reasons. Police statistics only capture about one per cent of the number of hate crimes that people in Canada self-report. Jewish and Muslim organizations both report significant increases in incidents targeting their communities. 

According to Demkiw, the TPS have “responded with an all-service state of readiness and have directed a high visibility state of patrols and deployments across all divisions with a focus on places of worship including synagogues, mosques, schools and community centres.”

Outside of Canada’s largest city, things are following a similar path. Ottawa police issued its own statement about stepping up security in places of cultural and religious significance. 

This has done little to stem the flow of hate and targeting against both Jewish and Muslim communities. 

In Montreal, on October 11th, a video surfaced of a woman shouting at a motorist allegedly for having a Palestinian flag hanging off her car. 

“You should be raped and dragged through the streets in front of your kids. That’s what you should do,” the video shows her yelling from a car window. 

Wise later apologized for her “unwarranted and unreasonable” behaviour. 

“My anger was unfairly directed at you,” a screenshot allegedly from her private Instagram account reads. “I said terrible things to you, words that I still cannot believe left my mouth. I’m living with the shame of what I’ve done.”

In London, the same city that saw a family of Muslims murdered in a targeted attack in 2021, the words “"Kill All Muslims" was scrawled on the wall of an apartment building. 

Not an isolated case, reports of Islamophobia have increased across the country, advocates tell the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

According to Uthman Quick, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, incidents of discrimination have taken place at “all levels of government, schools, universities, on the streets.” 

“We’re dealing with a tidal wave of Islamophobia. Of course, it's connected to the conflict in the Middle East; most of the reported incidents are anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian.”

Uthman says that individuals wearing traditional Arab or Palestinian clothing are reporting suspensions and harassment from educators and students. 

“There’s a fear among students going to school of incidents of verbal assault and bullying harassment.”

He has been asking members of his community to report incidents that enter the “realm of criminality” to law enforcement and to the NCCM.

In a subsequent press conference, the NCCM shared that it has seen an over 1000% increase in reported Islamophobic incidents compared to before the start of the war.

In BC, on October 11, two women in Vancouver reported they were followed and threatened with rape after leaving a vigil for those murdered during the attack on Israel. 

Speaking to CTV News, the women chose to remain unidentified but described graphic threats including that one of the men would “slice” them. 

“They told me that he will rape me, and my pants will bleed, and I would remember it for a very long time,” one of the victims recounted. 

Police took the men into custody and the following day, the VPD chief constable said in a statement that “significant resources [would be] deployed for any protests, demonstrations, and gatherings.”

Reports of other acts, including a case of a man smearing (presumably) human feces on the door of a mosque and vandalism specifically targetting Jewish communities continue to pour in. 

Multiple pro-Palestinian rallies have taken place across Canada since the declaration of war. Some participants have been recorded celebrating or seeming to celebrate Hamas’ attack on civilians as a victory for the larger Palestinian liberation movement. This view is far from universal. Since the outbreak of war, prominent individuals and protests have been simultaneously condemning Hamas’ targeting of civilians, what UN chief António Guterres described as the "collective punishment" levied by Israel's government, and Israel’s past treatment of Palestinians.

Hamas, which the Government of Canada has designated as a terrorist entity, attacked multiple civilian targets within Israel on October 7, killing over 1,400 Israelis and kidnapping a further 150 to 200, according to Israeli news reports. Israel continues to bomb Gaza in response and has killed over 8,000 people at time of publication, according to Palestinian officials. 

Israel maintains a blockade of Gaza and controls the movement of people and vital goods, such as water, food, and medicine in the region.

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