Hate incidents across Canada prompt schools, places of worship to tighten security

Hate incidents across Canada prompt schools, places of worship to tighten security
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Police officers stand in line to separate protesters supporting Palestine from a small group of Israel supporters in front of city hall in Toronto on May 15, 2021.CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

The Toronto Police Service charged a young man and two teenage boys in connection with a hate crime investigation into an incident at a Jewish high school, as the war in the Middle East intensified and demonstrations spread around the globe.

Authorities in Canada ramped up security at protests, places of worship and schools this week in response to Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip. The air strikes, and the attack on Israel by the militant Islamist group Hamas last weekend that sparked the crisis, have killed hundreds on both sides and provoked fear and anger far beyond Israel’s borders.

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On Friday, Toronto police said in a statement that they had charged three people who allegedly went to Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto on Thursday and were asked to leave by security officers. Police allege the trio passed a group of Jewish students as they were leaving the school, and that one suspect made “threatening remarks.”

Two of the three people charged are youths, and their identities are protected under the law. The third is 20-year-old Enes Boydak. The charges include uttering threats, and intimidation by threats of violence. None of the allegations have been tested in court.

In a separate statement, the Toronto Police Service said it is also looking for a man who “left hateful writing on the front of a mosque” early Thursday afternoon. Police said the suspect is about 30 years old and that the incident is being treated as a hate-motivated offence. Police said they believe the suspect was also involved in a previous incident at a mosque, on Oct. 6.

Several school boards, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, asked staff members to remain vigilant on Friday to ensure that students and employees felt safe and comfortable. At the Peel District School Board, west of the city, all exterior doors to schools, except for main entrances, were kept locked.

Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said on Friday that while the city’s police service has said there are no credible threats to schools, TDSB recognizes there is fear in some of its communities.

In Ottawa, Sergeant Ali Toghrol, head of the local hate-crimes unit, said his department is not investigating any specific incidents. But he said Ottawa police have met with local leaders from both the Palestinian and Jewish communities and “made it very clear that any form of hate speech or acts will not be tolerated, regardless of the where they happen.”

In Vancouver, police are investigating as possible hate crimes two altercations between people leaving a pro-Palestinian rally on Thanksgiving Monday. But Sergeant Steve Addison, a spokesperson for the force, said investigators are still translating comments made by suspects and victims, and have not yet determined the motives for the clashes.

Politicians across the country stressed that hate and violence will not be tolerated at demonstrations.

Quebec’s Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, said on social media Thursday that “the right to demonstrate is a fundamental right for all Quebeckers.”

“Now, there is a nuance between demonstrating and inciting hatred, which contravenes the Criminal Code,” he added. “The police are on the ground to ensure that the demonstrations take place in compliance with the laws.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told reporters her government is monitoring the situation. “We ask for peace and safety in these very troubling times,” she said.

Rabbi Mark Glickman said he expected hundreds of people to attend a Shabbat service on Friday evening at his Calgary synagogue, Temple B’nai Tikvah. He said security is being provided by local police, but that there is no “specific local threat.”

“For a Jew not to be concerned about the possibility of violence would be to ignore our history. It is always a possibility,” he said.

With reports from Alanna Smith and Mike Hager


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