Antisemitism in Canada Today

Colleyville attack, Holocaust remembrance, and persistent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

There was an outpouring of support for the North Texas, Colleyville congregation from all over the world, the Jewish community, political leaders, and interfaith leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter and his social media to denounce the attack. Trudeau expressed solidarity, writing, “Antisemitism is not acceptable. Not in Texas, here at home, or anywhere. While I’m relieved the hostages are now safe, the situation at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that each and every one of us must remain vigilant and work together to combat hatred in all its forms.” [1]

In Canada, the Hill Times notes, “Statistics Canada revealed that Jewish Canadians were the single biggest victims of religiously motivated hate crimes across the country in 2019.” [2] According to Bnai Brith Canada’s 2020 Audit of AntiSemitic Incidents, there were “2,610 recorded incidents. The third consecutive year in which the 2,000 plateau was exceeded. Fifth Record-setting year, 2020 was the fifth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada. AN 18.3% INCREASE of recorded anti-Semitic incidents compared to 2019. MORE THAN 7 antisemitic incidents occurred every day in 2020. OVER 44% of violent incidents in 2020 were COVID-19-related.” [3]

Bnai Brith Canada “uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and collects the data through their hotline. The IHRA defines “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Bnai Brith includes anti-Israel behavior as part of the anti-Semitic activity. Such as “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.” The incidents documented are harassment includes “anti-Semitic tropes or stereotypes” and social media posts, vandalism, and physical violence. [4]

Canadian antisemitic incidents seem to be rising at higher rates than in the US, increasing by “18% since 2019”. The 2610 incidents averaged out to “217 incidents per month, 50 incidents per week, and 7 antisemitic incidents per day.” [5] Bnai Brith’s survey considered the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting anti-Semitic incidents in Canada. Bnai Brith notes, “Approximately 1 out of every 10 incidents related to either the peddling of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, vandalism, or violence associated with the pandemic.” [6]

Bnai Brith reports, “The Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, police-reported hate-crime data for 2019 indicate that Jews, though only some 1% of the population of Canada, account for 15% of all hate crimes in Canada, and remain the country’s most targeted religious minority.” [7] The majority, over 80 percent of Canadian Jews, live in three cities, Toronto, Ontario, Montréal, Quebec, and Vancouver, British Columbia. However, Like the FBI last week, Stats Can seems to downplay the seriousness of anti-Semitism. According to Stats Can, they claim that there is a decrease in anti-Semitism in Canada why because there were “fewer police-reported crimes motivated by hate against the Jewish population, which declined from 372 incidents to 296 incidents in 2019 (-20%).” [8]

In previous years, the Jewish population reported more anti-Semitic attacks to the police. Stats Can says a “63% jump in 2017 and a 3% increase in 2018.” However, in 2019 the decrease was 20% from 372 to 296. Stats Can says it was because there was a decrease in reports in “Alberta (-29), British Columbia (-20), Ontario (-19) and Quebec (-18).” Muslim Canadians have been reporting attacks on their community more than Canadian Jews, “from 166 to 181 incidents (+9%).” Based on police reports, hate crimes against Jews represent the second most of all attacks, 16%, behind the Black population at 18%. [9] The results counter Bnai Brith’s because, as in the US, Canadian Jews prefer to report to Jewish Organizations, such as Bnai Brith’s hotline anti-Semitic instances rather than go to the police.

As in the US in Canada, anti-Semitic harassment accounts for most of the cases, with 2483 incidents, followed by vandalism with 118 incidents, but they only listed nine instances of violence. Anti-Semitic incidents increased in the Atlantic Provinces and Ontario, the most populated province with the largest Jewish population. Most incidents happened in Ontario and Quebec, 1130 and 686 cases, respectively. In the Atlantic Provinces, incidents increased from 2019 to 2020 by 226 percent from 61 to 199. In Ontario, it increased by 44 percent from 783 to 1130 incidents. Surprisingly, Quebec saw a drop of 14 percent, a high of 796 incidents to 686. In Canada, there was an increase of 71 percent. [10]

Ran Ukashi, Special Advisor to the League for Human Rights, describes the types of anti-Semitism seen in Canada last year. Ukashi writes anti-Semitism “included the equation of Jews with white supremacists, the invitation of terrorist sympathizers who slander the Jewish State and blame it for acts of violence targeting African Americans in the United States, and student unions meant to represent all university students boycott Jewish and Israeli students, refusing to work with Jewish student groups unless they deny their own indigenous and ancestral connection the Land of Israel, among other examples of antisemitic discrimination. At the time of this writing, there have been no consequences for these purveyors of hatred. Thus, even in a country such as Canada, inhabited as it is by a principled majority who believe in justice and equality for all, the rot of anti-Semitism.” [11]

Before the Colleyville, Texas synagogue hostage attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans his Liberal government would be taking to combat anti-Semitism. In October 2021, Trudeau spoke at “an international forum on Holocaust remembrance and antisemitism in Malmo, Sweden,” hosted by Canada. There Trudeau announced the role of “Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting anti-Semitism” would be a permanent government position. In November 2020, Trudeau appointed former Federal Justice Minister McGill Law Professor, international human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler and he will remain in the post.

Trudeau called anti-Semitism a “canary in the coal mine of evil,” a phrase Cotler has used in the past. Trudeau admitted, “Antisemitism isn’t a problem for the Jewish community to solve alone. It’s everyone’s challenge to take on, especially governments. And that’s why we’ll develop and implement a national action plan on combating hate, working in concert with Jewish communities and our special envoy.” [12] Trudeau also announced that he would be providing $5 million in funds as part of a federal Security Infrastructure Program to provide security to minority institutions; the funds will protect Jews institutions and synagogues. [13] Trudeau told the forum, “The rise in hate-motivated crimes against the Jewish community in the past few months is not only alarming, it’s completely unacceptable. As Jewish Canadians, too many of you have told me you’re feeling isolated and vulnerable.” [14]

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South,” “We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism,” and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”

Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”

Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over fifteen years of experience in education and political journalism.

[1] https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau/status/1482761591980503047

[2] https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/04/12/292371/292371

[3] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[4] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[5] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[6] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[7] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[8] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00002-eng.htm

[9] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00002-eng.htm

[10] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[11] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[12] https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/antisemitism-envoy-permanent-1.6209079

[13] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/canada-will-spend-5m-to-strengthen-security-at-jewish-institutions-justin-trudeau-tells-anti-semitism-summit

[14] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/canada-will-spend-5m-to-strengthen-security-at-jewish-institutions-justin-trudeau-tells-anti-semitism-summit

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Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.