2005-03-16

Attacks on Jews up 47%, B'nai Brith says
More private homes a target
Canada sending mixed messages

This article was originally on the Toronto Star's web-site. Registration may be required to view the article there.


GRAHAM FRASER
NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER

Mar. 16, 2005. 01:00 AM

OttawaCanada's international reputation is being damaged by a steady increase in attacks on Jews and Jewish cemeteries and places of worship, B'nai Brith leaders said yesterday as they released their annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada.

Citing a number of international reports on human rights and racism, Ruth Klein, national director of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada, told reporters "Canada is mentioned with its difficulties" because of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

B'nai Brith recorded 857 anti-Semitic incidents in 2004, which Klein called "the highest number in the 52-year history of the audit" and a 47 per cent increase from 2003.

"The incidents have increased threefold in the last five years," she said.

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B'nai Brith, said Canada is sending mixed messages, and was particularly critical of the fact aboriginal leader David Ahenakew has not had his Order of Canada taken away after making anti-Semitic remarks in December, 2002.

Ahenakew, former head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Assembly of First Nations, was charged in June 2003 with publicly promoting hatred against an identifiable group after he told a reporter the Holocaust was justified.

"How is it possible that a man ... who spews hatred still has his Order of Canada?" Dimant asked. "Are we sending mixed signals to the Canadian population?

"I think that sends a message around the world that we don't have the political will to enforce some of the rhetoric we hear after anti-Semitic incidents."

Toronto saw a 28.6 per cent increase with 405 anti-Semitic incidents, "the highest number ever recorded for any city in the history of the audit," the report showed, including a two-metre high swastika being painted on the building housing the offices of a Jewish organization, anti-Semitic remarks during a student council meeting at York University and various acts of vandalism and graffiti. York Region Police reported a total of 105 hate crimes in 2004, as compared to 92 in 2003; 72 of these (68.6 per cent) were directed at Jews, 12 at the black community and three at the Muslim community.

In Canada, the number of attacks on private homes increased from 95 to 151, which Klein called particularly disturbing since it implies premeditation.

Across Canada, incidents include a Jewish home in Calgary spray-painted with the words Hitler Rules, and graffiti on a city street in Cambridge, proclaiming: Help Save The World. Kill The Jews.

Dimant said the effect on Jewish synagogues and social institutions has been chilling.

B'nai Brith called on all major police forces to create dedicated hate crime units. It urged the federal government to draft more stringent legislation to prohibit the publication of hate speech, and to amend the Criminal Code to include Holocaust denial as a hate crime.

The group called for a broader role for the Canadian Human Rights Commission and urged human rights education in schools.

With files from Canadian Press

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