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CANADA 2001-2

 

In total, 286 antisemitic incidents were reported to the League for Human Rights in 2001, roughly the same level as in 2000, but an increase of 7 percent over the pre-intifada level reported in 1999. In Quebec, the number of antisemitic incidents rose by 11 percent in 2001, and a new attitudinal survey suggested that there was a higher level of prejudice in Quebec toward Jews than in the rest of Canada. The university campus continued to be a source of antisemitic propaganda and the number of incidents targeting Jewish college students increased.

 

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Canada is one of the fastest growing communities of the Jewish Diaspora, with the fifth largest Jewish population in the world. Its numbers have been bolstered by immigration from South Africa, Israel, North Africa, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

Canada’s Jewish population in 2001 was estimated at 364,000 out of a total population of 31 million. Most of the community is divided between Toronto and Montreal, with other major centers in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

B’nai B’rith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress are the two major national Jewish advocacy organizations. The community publishes some 20 newspapers and journals, including The Jewish Tribune and the Canadian Jewish News.

 

EXTREMIST GROUPS

The Extreme Right

White supremacist and neo-Nazi activity has decreased in Canada over the past decade. Organized hate groups appear to have been driven underground across the country, partly in order to avoid detection by the authorities and partly due to lack of leadership. Nevertheless, racist groups from the United States, such as William Pierce’s white supremacist National Alliance, have reportedly been active in Canada. Activities traditionally associated with extreme right-wing groups still occur across the country, such as ripping mezuzahs off Jewish homes and daubing swastikas, antisemitic messages and death threats on Jewish community institutions, as well as on public buildings.

Pockets of extreme right activity have been reported, for example, in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in Ontario, where websites are operated by three locally-based racist organizations: the Tri-City Skins, the Heritage Alliance and the Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team. In total, approximately 25 North American racist websites have been linked to a post office box in downtown Toronto, in what has been called by London (Ontario) area police the “Grand Central Station of hate propaganda.”

The Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team was the focus of considerable attention due to an Internet newsletter it posted after the September 11 attacks, which included a threat to “B’nai B’rith offices, Mossad temples and any Jew [or] Arab Temple, building, house and cars. There are no innocent Jews especially in a time of war.” The group is currently under investigation by the London Police Hate Crimes Unit, and two of its members have been arrested and charged with making death threats and counseling others to murder Jews and Muslims.

 

Extremist Islamic Groups

The Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) has repeatedly warned that most of the world’s terrorist groups have a presence in Canada where they engage in a variety of fundraising and recruitment activities, as well as in communications and logistical planning in support of terrorist operations. Even before the September 11 events, CSIS reported that it was monitoring more than 50 terrorist groups – including Hamas, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qa‘ida –as well as 350 operatives. Ongoing investigations have indicated that terror suspects included Israeli-related and Jewish targets in Canada in their operational blueprints.

The new anti-terrorism legislation introduced in 2001 seeks to prevent groups connected with terrorist activities from functioning, recruiting and fundraising in Canada. The artificial distinction between the military and “social service” arm of Hamas, for example, was eliminated by the government, in effect making it illegal to raise funds for Hamas in Canada. However, fundraising for the so-called social service arm of Hizballah has been left intact, although the government does not have – nor does it request – any accountability mechanism to ensure such funds are not directed toward the incitement of violence and terrorist activities.

CSIS reports indicate that extremists with links to terrorist organizations have blended into émigré communities and are thus in a position to manipulate audiences at mosques and other religious and cultural institutions. There is concern that the heightened rhetoric noted in anti-Israel demonstrations, whether at the campus level or on the street in general, may be due to the influence of individuals with extremist agendas who have managed to infiltrate both student life and civil society.

 

ANTISEMITIC ACTIVITIES

There were a total of 286 antisemitic incidents reported to the League for Human Rights (hereafter, the League) during 2001, roughly the same level as in 2000, but an increase of 7 percent over the (pre-intifada) 1999 figure, and an increase of 35 percent over the 1996 one. In Quebec, home to a large Muslim population, the number of incidents rose by 11 percent, to 83 from 75 in 2000, a 98 percent increase over the 1999 figure (42 incidents). These data, together with the findings of an attitudinal survey commissioned by the League in 2001, indicate a disturbingly higher level of prejudice in Quebec.

The survey found that 26 percent of Canadians in Quebec perceived Jews as having too much power, compared to 10 percent outside Quebec. In democratic societies, educational systems normally play an important role in attenuating inter-group antagonism. That was the pattern among francophones and Quebecers in 1986, with anti-Jewish animus abating as education level increased. However, today the pattern seems to have been reversed. Among Quebecers with high school education or less, 20 percent believed that Jews had too much power. This figure rose to 29 percent in 2001 among those with college education and 30 percent among those who had university degrees.

Across Canada, 35 percent of all antisemitic incidents were reported in the wake of 11 September, 20 percent in the immediate aftermath and close to an additional 15 percent in October. In Ontario, 26 percent of the entire year's incidents were reported in September (15 percent) and October (11 percent). In Toronto, 41 percent of the year's totals were reported in September (24 percent) and October (17 percent). For example, bomb threats were directed at a synagogue and at a Jewish elementary school in Toronto on 13 September. In Quebec, the 22 percent recorded for September, together with the 10 percent for October constituted almost one-third of the year’s incidents. These figures confirm the findings of various police reports across the country of a wave of hate crimes in general during that volatile period, targeting minority ethnic and religious groups.

The Jewish community in Canada suffered bomb threats, anthrax scares, physical assaults on “visible” Jews, vandalism of synagogues and community institutions, cemetery desecrations, harassment and hate propaganda. The mass anthrax scares were particularly worrying, since they came shortly after the September 11 attacks. Several Jewish organizations, synagogues, schools, community organizations and individuals received a white powder in the mail purported to be anthrax, along with threatening letters. One such letter warned: “Now the Jews will know what anthrax is” and “Death to the Jews, this letter contains anthrax. Death to Israel. Islam marches forward.”

Individuals who posted pro-Israel letters in the press which identified their area of residence as well as their names, received threats such as “We’re coming to get you and your family,” and “soon you’ll be out of here on a raft … Madagascar will look good to you then.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Canada also had antisemitic features. The “Zionism equals Racism” canard re-appeared on the streets of Canada, particularly after the widespread dissemination of such propaganda at the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism in Durban in August–September 2001. Signs were also seen in Ottawa and elsewhere alleging The Jewish State is a Racist State,” and Jewish observers at both street and campus demonstrations heard shouts of “Death to the Jews” and Death to Israel.”

In Montreal, the 78 reported incidents represented an increase of 9 percent from the previous year, and a disturbing 290 percent increase since 1998 (20 incidents). As was the case in 2000, Montreal was plagued with antisemitic incidents due, directly or indirectly, to the rising tensions in the Middle East. One victim, a visibly identifiable Jew, was harassed and intimidated on a Société de Transport de la Communauté Urbaine de Montréal (STCUM) bus by four young men who shouted abuse in Arabic. In another case, two identifiably Jewish adolescents were taunted and harassed in the Metro, and then followed into the street by two individuals who yelled at them in Arabic and assaulted them. Another Jewish individual, who had received death threats, was assailed by an individual with a knife who cursed him in Arabic. The victim reported having being regularly harassed by his Arab neighbors because of his religion.

In Ottawa, the nation's capital, the smearing of dog feces on the doorknobs of a local synagogue was reported on several occasions. A memorial chapel was attacked by arsonists and a synagogue was vandalized, its windows broken, and its doors smeared with a graffiti message from the perpetrators – “Islam 4 ever.” A sign next to a high school read “No dogs, no Jews,” together with a swastika. Graffiti such as “Kill Kill Kill” and “Achtung Juden” was spray painted on public buildings.

 

Propaganda

There has as yet been no systematic examination of the Canadian Arab or Muslim media to see if antisemitism is a regular feature. However, the Ottawa-based English-language Islamic publication Fadak, included in its October 2001 edition a forged document, supposedly an antisemitic statement of Benjamin Franklin to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Franklin is alleged to have proclaimed that “the Jews are a danger to this land” and should be excluded, otherwise “our children will be working in the fields to feed the Jews, while they remain in the counting house, gleefully rubbing their hands.” This canard, from a 1935 Nazi publication, “A Handbook on the Jewish Question,” has been circulating throughout the Arab world for some time (for example, in the Egyptian government weekly Akher Sa'a, 9 Jan. 2002, and the Palestinian Authority official organ al-Hayat al-Jadida, 18 Feb 1998).

Traditional extreme right propaganda materials continue to be distributed in Canada. A newsletter from a radical separatist group called Mouvement de libération nationale du Québec (MLNQ) contained a caricature of a Hassidic Jew, with the caption: “If Quebecers looked like this people we would also laugh at them.” Pamphlets were distributed in the Toronto subway system depicting a Jewish man as a hated moneylender with physically stereotypical features. In Quebec, the Anglophone community was targeted for distribution of the National Vanguard, a publication of the National Alliance, which was delivered to homes in the West Island areas of Bay D’urfé, Beaconsfield, Ste. Anne de Bellevue and Pointe Claire. The National Alliance was also active in Calgary, where it distributed racist and antisemitic pamphlets and car windshield stickers.

At Thanksgiving a visiting priest in Montreal reportedly delivered a sermon on several occasions alleging that Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. A speaker invited by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) association at McGill University made antisemitic remarks and statements during the question and answer period, accusing Jews of being “Christ killers.” A clergyman in Edmonton reportedly preached from the pulpit that “No Jews died in the World Trade Center on 11 September.”

 
College Campuses

In general, hegemony over antisemitism appears to have shifted from white supremacists to groups propagating the myth that not just Israel, but also Jews, whether in Canada or elsewhere, are responsible for the current conflict in the Middle East, the events of 11 September and most of the ills of the world. Nowhere is this more evident than on campus. The campus is the starting point in North America for much of the propaganda emanating from the Middle East. At Montreal’s Concordia University, for example, Jewish students have complained of being verbally abused and harassed because of their religion and their belief that Zionism is an expression of the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland. As elsewhere in Canada, there are growing reports that visibly Jewish students have become anxious about participating in campus life and debate, with some even hesitant to attend classes. Jewish professors and administrators have also been targeted. At the University of Guelph, for example, graffiti defaced the home of the president of the university who is Jewish.

Concordia University houses an activist Arab core, part of a much larger Arab student population there. A radical-led student union (CSU), consisting mainly of Arabs/Muslims and left-wingers/anti-globalization supporters who played ethnic politics, won an election in March 2001, with several pro-Palestinian activists taking on key roles in the new student governing body and pushing a one-sided, divisive, blame-Israel agenda. In fall 2001 the CSU published an article entitled “Uprising” (i.e., intifada), which accuses Israel of being involved in “state terror that has killed civilian men, women, and children whose only ‘crime’ is their nationality.” Another article by Laith Marouf, a vice-president of CSU, insinuated that “the ‘Jewish’ rector knows how much money the university owes to Zionists.” Marouf also alleged that “Zionists monopolize the North American media.

            Marouf was subsequently barred from the campus for acts that included allegedly painting graffiti on university property, such as “Stop Jewish Supremacy” and “Stop Jewish Apartheid.” Marouf was active in the SPHR (Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights), a Muslim/Arab organization with strong Canadian grassroots support, which functioned not only at Concordia, but at all other Montreal universities and a few in Ontario. This group passed out literature previously carried by the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review, charging Israel with developing an “ethnic bomb” that would target only Muslims.

One of the most common post-September 11 myths claimed that 4,000 Jews did not come to work at the World Trade Center because they had been warned of what would happen. A visiting professor at Montreal’s McGill University from Saudi Arabia used campus e-mail facilities to disseminate this piece of propaganda, which seems to have originated in the PLO office in Turkey. It was also heard on radio talk shows across Canada, along with the allegation that 11 September was “all the Jewish people’s fault.”

McGill University was the scene of another antisemitic episode when the student body invited an Israeli, Israel Shamir, to speak at a lecture entitled “Israel: The Racist State.” During the question and answer period, he accused an orthodox rabbi present of being “a monkey,” and mocked the religious garments he was wearing.

 

The Internet

A significant proportion of antisemitic activity on the Internet is still generated by members and supporters of North American organized extremist groups, primarily white supremacists, such as the National Alliance. The National Alliance is arguably the most aggressive group on the Internet. In addition, a considerable amount of antisemitic propaganda, linked to the Middle East conflict and emanating from that region, is actively directed toward Canada.

The year 2001 witnessed a dramatic increase in the level of antisemitic activity on the Internet, corresponding to the escalation of violence in the Middle East that began during the fall of 2000. The year 2001 also witnessed a similar increase in the level of anti-Israeli activity, which sometimes overlapped with antisemitism.

Two such Montreal-based websites were detected in August 2001. The first, Islamway (www.islamway.com), contained a slew of virulently antisemitic messages and Islamic fundamentalist articles posted on the message board. The message board was also used to recruit people to train in military camps in Afghanistan as soldiers for jihad and contained articles advocating violence against the “infidel Jews and Christians.” The second website was the Islamic News and Information Network (www.inin.net), which reproduced the charter of the Hamas terrorist organization, equated Zionism with Nazism, and advocated the destruction of the State of Israel. The website also had a section called, “On the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations.” The League reported both these sites to the authorities for appropriate action.

Neo-Nazi activity was also reported in Quebec. A site known as La fillière antinationaliste contained antisemitic literature and listed dozens of organizations and individuals described as “enemies opposed to our values and our race.”

 

ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST

Holocaust Denial

According to a survey undertaken for the League by the polling company COMPAS in early 2002, Canadians as a whole seem more immune than in the past to messages denying the Holocaust such as those of Ernest Zündel (see below), but it appears that the majority of Canadians do not blame Jews for what deniers term “their own victimization.” However, the minority core group susceptible to neo-Nazi thinking is not declining.

In practice, the proportion of Canadians who hold Jews not responsible for their own extermination during the Holocaust appears to be solidifying – up from 60 percent in 1986 to 75 percent today. The proportion blaming Holocaust victims for their own misfortune experienced a nominal decline of 2 percentage points. Whether this represents a long-term change is unclear, but it is reasonably apparent that the Canadian public has become more knowledgeable about the Holocaust.

A troubling finding relates to attitudes in Quebec. Both in 1986 and today, Quebecers and francophones are more likely than others to hold Jews responsible for bringing the Holocaust on themselves (i.e., they deserved it), and they are especially apt to do so if they have high school education or less. Today, the proportion of those who hold Jews at least partly responsible for their own genocidal victimization is 15 percent among Canadians as a whole, 26 percent among francophones, and 39 percent among francophones with high school education or less. In 1986, the corresponding figures were 16 percent, 25 percent, and 41 percent, respectively.

 

Holocaust Commemoration and Education

In Canada today, five provinces commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day: Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatoon. The League’s “Unto Every Person There Is a Name” is one of several commemorative programs that take place on the steps of the various legislatures, as well as in community and school-based formats.

The Yom Ha-Shoah Teacher’s Guide is a resource for educators to plan Holocaust observance and studies programs. Launched by the League, it was funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

 

RESPONSES TO racism and ANTISEMITISM

Legal and Legislative Activity

New antiterrorism legislation passed in response to the September 11 attacks included provisions to strengthen existing laws against hate crimes and hate propaganda. An amendment to the Criminal Code to eliminate online hate propaganda was included in order to allow the courts to delete publicly available hate propaganda from computer systems such as an Internet site. The provision applies to hate propaganda located on Canadian computer systems, irrespective of where the owner of the material is located or whether s/he can be identified.

A further amendment to the Criminal Code was designed to create a new offense of crimes against places of religious worship or religious property, motivated by hatred, bias or prejudice based on religion, race, color or national or ethnic origin.

An amendment to the Human Rights Act clarified the prohibition against hate messages, extending it beyond telephone messages to include all telecommunication technologies, including the Internet. Two human rights decisions in Canada demonstrated the ability of this law to offer some measure of remedy for hate speech on the Internet and in the press.

The protracted case against Ernst Zündel came to a conclusion in January 2002 when the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal released its decision (see ASW 1997/8 onwards). The complaint against Zündel concerned his use of his website, the Zundelsite, to spread antisemitic and Holocaust denial. The decision reaffirmed that the Canadian Human Rights Act has jurisdiction over the Internet, and even over a website whose physical location is outside Canada, in relation to hate materials coming into the country.

It was confirmed that Holocaust denial material is “hate” prohibited under the act since it is likely to promote hatred and contempt against Jewish people. The tribunal rejected Zündel’s fallacious argument that there is an “academic debate” over the existence of the Holocaust.

On the question of whether the application of the act to the Internet violates free speech rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the tribunal found that the application of the act to the Internet is constitutionally permissible. It further found that the act violates free speech rights, but that those limitations are reasonable ones in a democratic society under Section 1 of the Charter. It relied on earlier Supreme Court decisions, particularly those involving notorious hate propagandists John Ross Taylor and James Keegstra.

While aware of the difficulties inherent in enforcing a cease and desist order against Zündel, given that such propaganda flows with ease across borders, the court emphasized the symbolic value of its decision.

A second important Human Rights Tribunal decision, announced in November 2001, concerned the constitutional challenge issued by alleged antisemite Doug Collins before his death in September 2001, after a complaint was filed by Harry Abrams, British Columbia League representative, against Collins and the Vancouver area North Shore News. The tribunal followed its earlier decision in a case initiated by the Canadian Jewish Congress against Collins and the North Shore News (see ASW 1998/9). It found that the British Columbia Human Rights Code infringed the free speech rights of Collins but was saved by Section 1 of the Charter. Doug Christie, formerly Zündel’s lawyer, has served notice in the British Columbia Supreme Court of his intention to judicially review the decision of the tribunal.

 

Nazi War Criminals

Actions on Nazi war criminals continue to be plagued by judicial and political delays. Decisions on revocation of citizenship, following lengthy proceedings and appeals, must subsequently be followed up by an equally cumbersome deportation process.

The Fifth Annual report on Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Program, 2001_2001, lists 72 active files at the development stage. According to this report, seven active Revocation and Deportation Files were ongoing in the Federal Court or before the Immigration and Refugee Board, as of 31 March, 2002.

            Two persons were stripped of their Canadian citizenship in 2001. In March the Federal Court ruled that Wasyl Odynsky had “obtained citizenship by false representation” by knowingly concealing his service as a guard at the SS forced labor camps of Trawniki and Poniatowa. The decision to proceed with denaturalization took three and a half years from the time Odynsky was served notice.

In July 2001, the Federal Cabinet decided to proceed with the denaturalization and deportation of Helmut Oberlander, almost 18 months after the Federal Court of Canada ruled that he had lied about his wartime activities as a member of a Nazi mobile killing unit in order to gain entry into Canada. As of mid-2002, Oberlander was still in Canada.

Canada had begun proceedings in late 2000 to denaturalize Michael Seifert, convicted of war crimes in absentia by an Italian court. Italy requested his extradition in November 2001 and the Canadian immigration minister applied to a federal court to revoke his citizenship. Court documents say Seifert obtained his citizenship by “false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing circumstances.” On 2 May 2002, Seifert was arrested in Vancouver and held pending extradition proceedings.

 

Public Education

“Taking Action against Hate” is a program launched nationally by the League in order to raise public awareness of the dangers of antisemitism and racism in Canada. Supported by funding from the federal government, it provides practical training and resource material for vulnerable groups – and the public and private sector workers that service them – to help them counter the activity of hate groups and to strengthen the response of government, the police, the educational system and the community in general to hate/bias crime.

The League operates a national Anti-Hate Hotline seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and offers an educational strategy to complement this initiative. The project offers a community service to assist victims of antisemitism and help them to access the appropriate advice and assistance.