Canada’s post office says it will no longer deliver a crude Toronto-area newspaper that repeatedly denied the Holocaust, praised Adolf Hitler and derided Jews, Muslims, women and the LGBT community.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote, who oversees Canada Post, issued an order on June 6 against the future delivery of Your Ward News, a free, low-budget newspaper sent to 350,000 homes in the east end of Toronto. The publication claims an online readership of over 1 million.
The publication has been the subject of complaints for years, the Canadian Jewish News reported. B’nai Brith Canada said it has received “literally hundreds of phone calls and emails from people who have felt victimized by the content in this publication.”
The newspaper has defended itself as satire protected by free speech.
Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said her group was pleased to see that the government “has taken appropriate steps to protect Canadians from this kind of hate propaganda.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also hailed Canada Post’s move.
“Freedom of speech – a core Canadian value – is cheapened and corroded when it is cynically used by extremists to justify the dissemination of hate,” said CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel. “The fact that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has supported efforts to ban the delivery of Your Ward News reflects a broad consensus about the nature of the racist propaganda featured in this newsletter.”
Your Ward News editor James Sears has filed a request for a review of Canada Post’s decision. An appeal would consist of a panel appointed by the minister. He called the Canada Post move an “Orwellian order”.
“We’re just a satirical, offensive newspaper,” Sears told CBC News. “It has been found multiple times by Canada Post lawyers that we’re not breaking any hate-speech laws.”
Sears is a former Toronto medical doctor who was stripped of his license in 1992 after a court found him guilty of sexually assaulting female patients.
His material and actions have earned him a string of convictions in Europe for racial hatred. Now the French performer known as Dieudonné, who bills himself as a comedian, faces calls for him to be barred from entering Canada, where he has a series of shows next month in Montreal.
Describing himself as a comedian is an interesting take on someone who has mocked the Holocaust on stage, called Hitler a “good boy,” and popularized a controversial hand gesture known as the “quenelle” that resembles a downward Nazi salute. Not particularly funny really.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has said flatly that Dieudonné, whose real name is Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, is persona non grata in the city. “Someone who incites racial hatred and foments social tensions in Europe isn’t welcome in Montreal,” he tweeted.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called on Ottawa to keep the comedian out.
“Canada should not let a convicted offender of hate speech laws into the country,” said spokesman David Ouellette. “He has crossed the line into incitement to violence. When you’re calling on people to unite to kill Jews, it is surely a red line, where freedom of expression is no excuse.”
Those involved in Mr. M’bala M’bala’s tour in Quebec insist the performer has tempered his material and authorities should not be trying to silence him. “This is about freedom of expression. That is my fight,” said Gino Ste-Marie, a Quebec City-based organizer involved in the tour.
Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum’s office says it is following the case closely, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says it will be left to Canadian border-services agents to rule on Mr. M’bala M’bala’s admissibility once he arrives at a port of entry. Mr. M’bala M’bala’s prior criminality will be taken into account.
Court convictions in Europe have started to pile up on Mr. M’bala M’bala. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a French court conviction of inciting racial hatred for a show in which Mr. M’bala M’bala invited a Holocaust denier onstage to receive a prize from an actor dressed in striped pyjamas, evoking a concentration camp uniform. A French court last year also gave him a suspended sentence for inciting terrorism after a Facebook post appearing sympathetic with one of the gunmen in the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Mayors of several cities in France have banned his shows as threats to public order. Britain and Hong Kong have denied him entry.
Yet France’s efforts to rein him in are also fuelling a debate over free speech. Despite the efforts to clamp down on him – or perhaps because of them – Mr. M’bala M’bala enjoys considerable popularity, particularly among alienated youth from Africa and North Africa.
Mr. M’bala M’Bala, who was born in Paris, has a connection to Quebec. He used to appear at major venues and as a guest on talk shows in the province, even as he became a source of controversy in Europe. Eventually, Quebec began to keep its distance.
The owner of the Montreal venue where Mr. M’bala M’bala is to perform said he reviewed the comedian’s material for the coming show and has also received “guarantees” it would not contain hateful or racist material. “I cannot be responsible for what this man has said in the past,” said Mushagalusa Chigoho.
Toronto immigration lawyer Barbara Jackman says Canada has legal grounds for denying entry to Mr. M’bala M’bala because of his prior convictions for hate speech. Canada has equivalent laws.
“It would have a strong case against letting him in,” Ms. Jackman says. If he showed up, Canada could detain him and order him deported, she added.
Quebec, Canada – Two reports but one common theme?
B’nai Brith of Canada is struggling with the seemingly hapless police in city of Laval regarding a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on a number of houses, cars and on the walls of a park chalet in the Laval-des-Rapides district.
“It seems like the police were brushing this off as some teenage vandals,” Harvey Levine, executive director of B’nai Brith Canada, Quebec region, told the Montreal Gazette.
“But from the type of graffiti that we’ve seen – the SS symbols – this wasn’t just some teenagers spending an afternoon spraying graffiti. It’s up to the Laval police to investigate this more seriously as a hate crime rather than as an act of vandalism.”
Police reported a total of 13 acts of anti-Semitic graffiti – including swastikas – that were sprayed on the night of March 28 to the early morning hours of March 29.
Among the graffiti were the numbers 14/88 – an anti-Semitic code used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis – as well as a crossed-out Star of David.
Lt. Geneviève Villeneuve, of the Laval Police public-affairs department, said on Monday that investigators have no suspects.
“We have zero hypotheses,” Villeneuve added. “There were no cameras or witnesses. All we know is that there were 13 graffiti in different places.”
Asked whether police were investigating this as vandalism or as a hate crime, she responded: “All this is being studied at the same time to determine whether it’s a hate crime or not.”
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Montreal a real estate developer who wants to demolish a former church in Notre Dame de Grâce and build houses on the site while allowing a Chabad centre to remain in the adjoining hall, thinks prejudice is motivating many of the project’s opponents.
Robert Blatt, one of the site owners, told The CJN that in a year of public consultation, he has received many calls and emails about the project, and the majority have questioned whether the proposed seven single-family dwellings will be reserved for members of the Chabad-Lubavitch community.
Blatt said the inquirers give the impression they don’t want that to happen.
He said opponents have repeatedly brought up the same concern at the monthly borough council meetings. Blatt believes opponents’ claims that they are only concerned with preserving a building for its heritage value, or with keeping it for community use, do not tell the whole story.
“That the Jewish element should be brought into this, that they object to the presence of a Jewish organization, is extremely upsetting,” he said. “And this is in a community that prides itself on its multicultural character.”
Blatt said there is no deal between the developers and Chabad that would give it priority to purchase the homes. He said the houses would be on the open market.
Blatt recalled that at a public consultation meeting last October, a man-made a Nazi salute and yelled “Heil Copeman” after borough mayor Russell Copeman responded positively to a Chabad Rabbi’s vow to address complaints about noise that were made by several people there.
At its next meeting on May 2, the council is expected to decide whether to hold a referendum or rescind the planning approval that would have allowed the project to go ahead.
The Chabad centre has been occupying the hall since September 2013. The NDG Chabad moved to the former church as it has steadily become more popular.
Its founder and director Rabbi Yisroel Bernath said a much larger space – and ideally one of its own – was needed to accommodate the increasing number of participants in its services and activities, many of them young professionals and families, as well as students from Concordia University’s Loyola campus.
During the centre’s 2-1/2 years at the former church site, Rabbi Bernath has said he has received complaints from neighbours about noise. He is not certain that all were founded, and fears anti-Semitism may be behind some of them.
The church, which was deconsecrated in 2012, did have a designation of heritage interest from the City of Montreal, but at the lowest level on its rating scale. That value was judged less on architectural merit, than on the congregation’s history in the neighbourhood.
Toronto, Canada – While Toronto witnessed a drop in the number of hate crimes in 2015, the Jewish community continued to be the single-most targeted victim group. However, the total number of instances were fewer than the previous year.
According to the Toronto Police Service 2015 Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report, 31 occurrences involved Jews – plus one that targeted an Israeli.
Altogether 134 incidents were reported to police in 2015, a drop of 8.2 per cent from the 146 occurrences the year before.
In 2014, Jews, were also the single most targeted group, with 44 occurrences reported. The 31 incidents in 2015 represent a 29.5 per cent drop from the number in 2014.
The Jewish community makes up 3.8 per cent of the city’s population, as measured by religious affiliation, yet in 2015 were victimized in nearly 24 per cent of the religiously motivated incidents.
Most of the incidents involved mischief to property, such as anti-Semitic graffiti or vandalism. Apartment buildings, schools and public places, such as laneways, were the most common location for mischief offences.
Only 21 charges were laid against 19 persons in 2015, and only three of them were related to mischief offences.
Joel Reitman, co-chair of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Toronto, said, “Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the Jewish community finds itself once again disproportionately targeted in reported hate-crimes in Toronto. This is hardly an anomaly, which is why the security of our community is CIJA’s top priority. We offer a wide range of free services to ensure that Jewish institutions, their staff, and our community members are well protected. These services include security assessments, security briefings and tailored training sessions for security personnel.
“We strongly encourage staff and volunteers in the Jewish community who hold security-related responsibilities at their institutions to go to our website to learn more about the resources that are available,” Reitman added.
Mohamad Hisham Khalifeh, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, the founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of Al Forqan Newspaper printed in Windsor, Ontario has been suspended from his position with the Windsor Multicultural Council.
The Windsor Multicultural Council is a body that receives funds from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and is intimately connected with the welcoming and resettlement of Syrian refugees.
Following CIJnews report on Khalifeh’s editorial lauding the Palestinian knife attacks aimed at Israeli Jews as a “sacred duty of jihad”, B’nai Brith Canada urged the Ontario government to “launch a full investigation of the paper and particularly the offensive editorial.”
“The Knife Intifada was born orphan from the womb of a bereaved mother, but the sons of this sacred place with the determination of the heroes will be mentioned in history of this nation that in the midst of the current events there was a group which recognized the right of the sacred duty of jihad!”
“This is a positive first step by the Multicultural Council while it investigates Mr. Khalifeh’s writings,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada. “However, it calls into question how he was originally vetted for his position. To ensure that Syrian refugees are not exposed to radical Islamist ideology in Windsor, it would be prudent for the Council to re-examine the backgrounds of all of their staff and volunteers.”
When asked by the Windsor Star to comment on his controversial editorial, Khalifeh was quoted as saying the following:
“That’s not correct. It wasn’t said in that phrase. The editorial was saying we support Palestinians resisting the Israeli occupation. That’s the main thing… We don’t support any terror attacks on civilians,” Khalifeh said. “But we do support all kinds of resistance.”
According to Canada’s CityNews, a mural hanging in country’s York University student centre, seen by some as anti-Semitic, has prompted media mogul Paul Bronfman to pull his support from the university. Bronfman heads William F. White a media equipment company.
“The upshot is that if that poster is not going by the end of day today then William F. White is out of York,” Bronfman had said. “York is going to lose thousands of dollars of television production equipment used for emerging student filmmakers, access to technical people who do education and student training and student seminars, workshops and open houses at William F. White Center that help them develop the hard skills needed to fill industry infrastructure positions like gaffer or grip: they will no longer be invited. York University will be persona non grata at William F. White International until they take that poster down.”
The mural depicts a man with rocks in his hands looking at a bulldozer near a building. On his back is a Palestinian flag and a map of Israel without borders. Below that are the words Justice and Peace.
Danielle Shachar, a Jewish student at the University said, “If a mural condoning violence against any other nation was hung on campus, it would rightfully be condemned. Only when it pertains to Jews do we see this disturbing double standard.”
There have been been a number of anti-Israel protests and hateful graffiti appearing on campus. Shachar describes the campus as “a breeding ground for violence, hate and discrimination against Israel and its student supporters.”
In a statement from York University, Joanne Rider said the artwork displayed in the Student Centre is overseen by a separate Board of Directors and is a separate legal entity from the University.
“We consulted widely with experts who told us that we are not in a legal position to compel the Student Centre leadership to remove the artwork,” she said, adding that the school encourages freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is one of York’s guiding principles. Members of the York community have the right to express their views and to test and challenge ideas, provided they do so within the law and in a peaceful and non-threatening manner. We are an inclusive university and we care about how our students feel.”
She also said she is disappointed with Bronfman’s decision to pull his company’s support.
“We deeply regret Mr. Bronfman’s decision and would like to thank him for his support,” she says in the release. “Our Arts, Media, Performance and Design students have benefited from the experiential learning activities made possible by his generosity.”
There are lists we may rightly aspire to top while there are others that are less appealing. In a sad mirror of an increasing number of global regions the release of the 2014 Toronto Police Service’s annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report found that hate crimes reported to police went up by 11 per cent over 2013 and that Jews were the single most targeted group in Toronto. Though comprising only 3.8 per cent of the city’s population, Jews were the victims in 30 per cent of all reported occurrences.
Len Rudner, director of community relations and outreach for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said the findings should be seen in context.
“The report speaks to a fundamental truth. Canada is a great country to live in and Toronto is a great city to live in. But the fact hate crimes occur in Toronto should be of concern to everybody. The fact the numbers are up is a concern. The fact that Jews were the most targeted is a concern,” he said.
“I think if we remember that every incident represents a school, a synagogue or an individual that has been told they did not belong, and even if it happens once, it is significant and it is worth noting,” he added.
Of the incidents involving Jews as victim, 38 involved mischief, including three that involved a religious property, two were assaults, one was described as criminal harassment and three incidents involved death threats.
With increasing reports of Antisemitic hate crime being recorded in large parts of Europe, including here in the UK, as well as in America, Jewish residents in Montreal, Canada are the latest community to be targeted. In the West End district of the city someone painted four cars with swastikas and left notes, each with a bullet.
The note allegedly read “we’ll kill you.”
Another news report said a bullet accompanied the message “you’re going to get one of these in your head.”
The windshield of one car was also smashed with an axe, which lay on the ground.
The vandal had placed envelopes, adorned with Nazi symbols, under the windshield wipers of the damaged vehicles.
“The police didn’t want to tell us what was written, but we found out later that the message was for us,” said one resident. “There was also a bullet in the envelope.”
“All my life, I felt safe in Montreal,” she said. “I can’t believe this could happen in my building. I’m definitely afraid.”
Montreal police say an investigation is underway. Forensic experts were on scene.