Anti-Semitism on the Rise in Canada

Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada have quadrupled over the past decade, according to the League for Human Rights of B'nai B'rith Canada.

More than 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the league in 2007, up from 240 in 1998, the league said in its annual "Audit of Anti-Semitism." The 2007 figure also represents an increase of 11.4% over 2006, when 935 incidents were reported. The incidents ranged from the firebombing of a synagogue during Passover to the vandalism of homes with anti-Semitic graffiti.

"The 2007 findings indicate that anti-Semitism is not just at the fringes of Canadian society, nor the work of a lone few bigots," said Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith Canada. "Anti-Semitism's reach is far more systematic, occurring in benign places where one normally would not expect to encounter racism. This form of hatred appears to be increasing in rural areas, whereas before incidents were primarily confined to urban centers."

The league attributes the jump to several events both within and outside Canada that brought more attention to Jewish issues. Those included the anti-Semitic remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the debate over a Canadian professor's decision to attend an Iranian conference disputing the Holocaust. In addition, the league contends that Canada's Bouchard-Taylor hearings on reasonable accommodation of minorities provided a public forum for expressions of xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.

The spike in Canadian anti-Semitism comes as similar incidents have declined elsewhere, including in Britain and France. The United States also saw a decline overall, though New York City — which has a relatively large Jewish population — saw incidents jump by nearly 25% over 2006.

Another troubling development in Canada is the growing visibility of a neo-Nazi group called the Aryan Guard. This spring, about 25 members of the group staged a "White Pride" march through downtown Calgary. The neo-Nazis shouted denials of the Holocaust and condemned non-whites. Police separated the group from some 200 anti-racist protesters, many of whom covered their faces for fear of retribution from Aryan Guard members. Though the Aryan Guard states on its website that it is nonviolent, police in February were looking into whether the group might be linked to two firebombings in the area. In one of the incidents, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the home of anti-racist activists.

Although the Aryan Guard appears to be on the rise, a white supremacist street gang based in Edmonton was severely crippled in March after police arrested 17 of its members and issued warrants for another five. The White Boy Posse, which has links to the Hells Angels and members throughout northern Alberta, often incorporates the swastika into tattoos and gang paraphernalia. The group is also involved drug in trafficking; police confiscated cocaine and cash during the arrests.