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April 25, 2018
MONTREAL – It was more than two years ago that then Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was participating in a focus group on antisemitism, with the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada’s 2016 Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in his hands.
Coderre, a huge supporter of the Jewish community during his four-year term, threw out a trial balloon and began to discuss the notion of establishing a police unit dedicated to hate crimes and incidents motivated by hate. That prompted Moïse Moghrabi, the League’s Quebec chair, to merely suggest that the Mayor move forward with such an initiative.
He did just that.
The unit was formally unveiled in May 2016 and is tasked with centralizing all information on both hate crimes and incidents motivated by hate. While the city's police force has documented and investigated hate crimes for years, the focus on incidents motivated by hate is unique. These incidents involve non-criminal acts that affect an individual or identifiable group's sense of security and are believed to be motivated by race, national or ethnic origin, language, skin colour, sex, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.
At a Montreal press conference Tuesday to unveil the 2017 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, Quebec Executive Director Harvey Levine expressed his hope that more politicians will take a good long look at the document and take the results to heart.
To download a PDF version of the Audit, click here.
BREAKING: B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reports that 2017 was the second consecutive record-setting year for #antisemitism in Canada. There was also a whopping 107 per cent increase in antisemitic vandalism. #BBAudit2018https://t.co/7Z3GbwwTXU— B'nai Brith Canada (@bnaibrithcanada) April 24, 2018
“We are still working with and meeting with members of Montreal Police about this unit, which we still consider to be fledgling,” said Levine. “We are very pleased with the progress. Members of this unit are going out to neighbourhood police stations and training officers on how to handle such incidents. Our Audit does a lot of good. This is a prime example.”
There were 474 acts of antisemitism in Quebec in 2017, 27 per cent of the national total. Levine, however, believes that there are countless incidents that were never reported to B’nai Brith, pointing to the strongly Hassidic community of Outremont, where intolerance has been rampant for years. “We need people there to report incidents to us more often,” he said. “Unfortunately, such acts have become so prevalent that they often do not react.”
With a new Montreal mayor and administration, a provincial election set for Oct. 1 and a federal by-election in Outremont to be scheduled when MP and former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair steps down next month, Moghrabi confirmed that copies of the Audit will be used in meetings with politicians at all levels.
.@bnaibrithcanada annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 in Canada: Que director Harvey Levine says it was the 2nd record-breaking year in terms of acts of vandalism, which more than doubled. Que incidents overall jumped from 249 in 2016 to 474 last year. #CJAD pic.twitter.com/gQqW6N6vLw— Shuyee Lee (@sleeCJAD) April 24, 2018
Quebec Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard, backed by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, has repeatedly reached out to the Jewish community. Last year, he led an unprecedented mission to Israel; more recently, he attended and spoke at the community-wide Yom HaShoah ceremony.
Levine said that a meeting will be sought with Coalition Avenir du Québec leader Francois Legault, whose poll numbers have been strong. B’nai Brith has never met with him before, so a copy of the Audit will be headed his way. Amir Khadir, from the separatist Québec Solidaire, was cited in the Audit for his claim that members of the National Assembly are “completely controlled when it comes to the Palestine issue…by the Zionist lobby.” This is merely another in one of Khadir’s frequent anti-Israel comments.
Asked whether B’nai Brith would seek a meeting with him, Moghrabi said, “I would like to, but I am not sure we would change his mind.”