Hate incidents ‘new normal’: B’nai Brith
The discovery of spray-painted swastikas on the Hamilton rail trail this week was shocking, but experts say this kind of hate is not so much a rising trend as it is a norm.
According to an annual audit by Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada, there were 136 incidents of anti-Semitism vandalism across the country last year.
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn says recent media reports have led to questions about whether this kind of hate is on the rise in Canada.
“What we’ve been saying is that, actually we are not seeing elevated levels,” he says. “This has been constant in Canada for a long period of time, and we do have a new normal.”
What is on the rise, he says, is the reporting of incidents and denouncements by officials, which is a good thing.
After the rail trail graffiti — and a similar case on a Kirkendall sidewalk just days earlier — city councillors Matthew Green and Aidan Johnson publicly denounced the vandalism.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was “saddened and disgusted” by the anti-Semitic graffiti.
At a local level, police say it is difficult to say so early in the year whether these incidents are on the rise.
As of Feb. 18 — two days before the swastika incidents — there had been seven such hate-based graffiti cases this year, compared to five in the same period last year.
Police spokesperson Sandra Wilson said that of those, three targeted the black community, one targeted the Christian religion, two targeted the Jewish f aith and one targeted the LGBTQ community.
“Graffiti is really, really difficult unless we’ve got cameras in the area. That’s why we need the community — and particularly if you see someone in the act — to get a description to us as soon as possible,” she said.
“Well over 70 per cent are committed by regular Joes and Janes — not organized groups,” Wilson says. “That is why we talk about the importance of community and having these conversations to educate your kids, your family, your coworkers. We need to make it clear — not in this space.”
Mostyn agrees that ignorance could be at the root of many of these incidents — but noted “it’s pretty hard to ignore a hate element.”
Hamilton police expect to release their annual hate crime report on March 9.