Hate in­ci­dents ‘new nor­mal’: B’nai Brith

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MOLLY HAYES

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.

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