British Columbia

Antisemitism
An Overview

Background

British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province, is defined by its Pacific coastline and mountain ranges. Natural areas like Glacier National Park offer hiking and biking trails, as well as campgrounds. Whistler Blackcomb is a major ski resort that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. The scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway links Whistler with Vancouver, a city known for its film industry, at the province's southern U.S. border. The total population of B.C. is 4.6 million.

In British Columbia, 82% of visible minorities have experienced prejudice or some form of discrimination, according to a March 2017 survey commissioned by Vancity. Interestingly, 28% of survey respondents believe racism has increased recently, targeting all minority groups.

However, this sentiment is not reflected in the hate crime statistics, most likely due to either incidents not being reported and or once incidents are reported, they may not be classified as hate crime in some jurisdictions. The Vancouver Police provided hate crime statistics which recognize 5 incidents against the Jewish community in comparison to 16 against the Muslim community and 18 against the LGBTQ community.

According to the Statistics Canada Police-reported hate crime, 2016 report, British Columbia reported more hate crimes compared to the previous year, rising from 164 to 211. The increase was attributable to crimes against the East or Southeast Asian and South Asian populations, which doubled from 2015 to 2016 (from 15 to 32 and from 11 to 24, respectively). British Columbia's 211 reported hate crimes made up 15% of all hate crimes in Canada in 2016.

Vandalism and Graffiti

On April 28, 2018, antisemitic graffiti was discovered in a North Burnaby neighbourhood.  The word "Jews" with a diagonal slash through it was scrawled onto Highfield Drive.  The graffiti was removed by the city six days after it was discovered.

On November 26 2017, a Frontrunners store in Victoria was found defaced with a swastika and KGB symbols drawn in permanent marker.

On November 4 2017, a commercial building in Edgemont Village in North Vancouver was vandalized with a swastika on concrete in front of the building and a rd sticky substance was dumped over a statue.

Defaced mural in Vernon

In late June 2017, CBC reported on antisemitic graffiti that was found in Nelson, British Columbia. Two swastikas were first noticed along a gravel road near a popular recreation area, while a third swastika and the phrase “white power” were discovered near an auto wrecker’s yard. 

On June 6, 2017, Castanet reported that one of Vernon's colourful murals had been defaced with a swastika and Hitler-type moustache drawn on the face of an indigenous woman.

Similarly, in April 2017 – Liberal incumbent Naomi Yamamoto and NDP candidate Bowinn Ma’s campaign lawn signs were defaced with swastikas and hate language.

Antisemitic graffiti was also found in Kelowna in January 2017 on the Staples building. Interestingly, while it is reported that the graffiti was antisemitic in nature, the RCMP classified it as vandalism, not hate speech. This may account for why in many provinces and regions, hate seems to be low – due mainly to classification.

Similarly, on February 20th, the CBC reported a photo of “vandalism” at Vancouver’s Gladstone Secondary School. The words, “Hail Hitler” were written on the exterior doors with a swastika in the corner.  Another section said, “prepare 2 be gassed”. 

Graffiti at Gladstone Secondary School

Racist and antisemitic graffiti seems to be in vogue in British Columbia. How sad when students at Surrey high school arrived last fall for their first day of school to be greeted by a large swastika and hateful slurs. Similarly, an interracial couple found a swastika drawn on her car in Port Alberni in February of 2017. In April, swastikas were found in Abbotsford spray painted on two cars – while “white power” slurs defaced a local school in the same town.

The city of Kamloops was the target of two graffiti incidents November 2016. On November 21 a racist message was discovered at Arthur Stevenson Elementary, and on November 25 a swastika was found at two locations downtown.

Swastika found on door of Vancouver LGBTQ centre

A week after the Orlando gay bar massacre, a Vancouver LGBTQ centre was vandalized with swastika graffiti. The swastika was discovered on the Vancouver Arts and Leisure Centre's door, and was quickly erased by a mechanic from a diesel repair shop across the street.

Nanaimo police began investigating in April 2016 after racist graffiti was found on ads featuring real estate agents of Asian descent. The graffiti appeared on three bus-stop bench advertisements.

Clearly in B.C., white supremacists are holding to their values of intolerance and racism against all, no matter race, religion or creed. On February 18th, CTV Vancouver reported that families are being targeted by racist graffiti in East Vancouver. Their homes were desecrated with swastikas and references that East Vancouver is for “white Europeans.”

Schools and University Campuses

Two UBC student groups apologized after posting an article on their Facebook pages that was replete antisemitic slurs and racist conspiracy theories. The groups were Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) - UBC and Color Connected Against Racism UBC, both of which deleted the posts following complaints from students on campus.

On the morning of UBC's Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial Gym, students and staff arrived to pro-Nazi posters posted on all entrances. FSWC is shocked by these disturbing posters, which promote Nazism and disrespect the Canadian soldiers who fought for freedom against Nazis. UBC stated that it is looking into the posters and is asking those with information to contact campus security.

On November 9, antisemitic graffiti including a swastika and “Heil Hitler” was discovered on a hallway blackboard at the University of British Columbia - the same day as the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a two-day anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany in which thousands of synagogues, Jewish businesses and other institutions were destroyed. FSWC condemned the graffiti, with FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo stating, “As we commemorate Kristallnacht and the Jewish civilians who were directly affected by this horrific moment in history, this graffiti is a painful reminder that antisemitism still exists in our communities and that we must continue to stand up against it.”

A week earlier, posters promoting alt-right websites were found at the University of Victoria with the ominous slogan "Those that hate us will not replace us", clearly reminiscent of the antisemitic chants heard during the Charlottesville Rally earlier this year. The word "Those" appeared in triple parenthesis, an antisemitic slogan aimed at identifying a person or group as Jewish. The president of the university later released a statement of condemnation with a pledge to continue "to combat racism and intolerance in all its form" while committing to "investigate and to remain vigilant for any reoccurrence."

Swastika spray-painted over student-made mural in Abbotsford

The Sumas Mountain campus of the Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts was defaced with racist and misogynistic graffiti in April 2017, with hateful messages spray-painted onto windows and doors. Swastikas were also found, one of which was spray-painted over a student-made mural.

On March 21, 2017 the Mounties in Nanaimo investigated half a dozen racist posters hung around Vancouver Island University. Non-coincidentally, six posters with Nazi imagery were discovered around campus the day prior International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The university condemned the incident.

In yet another stunning case of politicized antisemitism early in 2017, The Island School of Building Arts in B.C. apologized after an Israeli engineering student said his application had been rejected due to “geopolitics.” Apparently, the school had a policy of not accepting Israeli students. In an email to Israeli Stav Doron, Patricia Rokosh – the manager of student services – wrote, the reason was “due to the conflict and illegal settlement activity in the region.” Doron did not reapply to the school. 

The pressure on the Jewish community of British Columbia continued unabated, even on university campuses. On March 31, 2017, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected a petition to stop the University of British Columbia’s student government from holding a referendum on the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

The judge rejected the petition even while he found that the referendum question “is divisive, creates a toxic atmosphere for students supportive of the state of Israel, and is destructive of open and respectful debate on an important issue.” Additionally, the judge argued that the BDS petition “drove a wedge between religious groups on campus who had previously enjoyed inter-faith outreach and collaboration.” In the end, the referendum was defeated with students voting against BDS at UBC.

Similarly, the Simon Fraser University Teaching Support Staff Union attempted to pass the antisemitic BDS resolution. Their referendum vote was decided in January 2017 at the union’s annual general meeting. An intensive campaign proceeded following the AGM which saw electronic voting take place from May 15th-19th. Worth noting was that this campaign referenced an organization called Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In the final tally, the BDS motion failed to gain strength and was defeated. 

Mounties in North Vancouver began an investigation after Carson Graham Secondary was vandalized with a swastika on May 15, 2016. RCMP identified the responsible individuals and stated there was no threat to the Carson Graham community.

Hate Speech

Hate mail received in Windsor and other Jewish institutions

After FSWC reported on hate mail received at a Jewish community centre in Windsor, Ontario in late February, more Jewish institutions later reported receiving the hate mail - including a Jewish community centre in Victoria, the Forest Hill Jewish Centre in Toronto, and B'nai Brith's office in Montreal.

On December 19, 2017, FSWC learned that a synagogue in Victoria was one of numerous synagogues in multiple cities - including Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal and Kingston - that had received disturbing and threatening antisemitic mailings. The unmarked letters depicted in graphic style a swastika embedded in a yellow Jewish star dripping with blood accompanied by the words "Jewry Must Perish." 

According to Global News, the website of a B.C. mosque, the Islamic Society of British Columbia, included a link to antisemitic content that urges an “Islamic jihad” against Jews, denounces democracy and approves the killing of ex-Muslims. The Islamic Society of British Columbia appeared to have removed the link from its homepage in October, 2017.

In March 2017, a B.C. court required Arthur Topham to not use the internet after he was convicted of online hate against Jewish people. In 2015 a jury convicted Topham of one count of communicating online statements that willfully promoted hatred against Jewish people. According to reports, Topham was “unrepentant, telling the court before sentencing that it was his ‘duty to alert the public to the imminent threat of the Jewish lobby.’" Topham was running a hate website which “featured frequent posts that touted Jewish conspiracies and demonized Jewish people.”

Threats

Unbeknownst to the Jewish Community Centre of Vancouver and reeling from continued antisemitic attacks – the JCC was evacuated twice due to bomb threats. On March 8th and 12th – the Centre received email threats. While Jewish organizations do not take chances on bomb threats, it is now widely known they were part of a pattern of hoax’s throughout North America. In twisted form, an Israeli adolescent with mental illness had been sending hoax bomb threats to JCCs across America and Canada.

Other Incidents

White supremacist flyers spotted in Burnaby

Flyers promoting the white supremacist Internet forum Stormfront were spotted outside a library in Burnaby, BC in November 2017. FSWC denounced these flyers and the group’s attempt at spreading its hateful message, and reached out to Burnaby RCMP to alert them to this incident.

While scouting an area for the AIDS walk in Vancouver, volunteers discovered hateful neo-Nazi flyers - including one with a swastika on it. The event, which took place in September 2017, was believed to be targeted.

In August 2017, residents of East Vancouver found neo-Nazi flyers in their mailboxes with the image of Adolf Hitler, with the headline "The World Defeated the Wrong Enemy." The flyers advertise a documentary admiring Hitler and the Nazis.

Globe and Mail headline reported on May 5, 2017 – “Outrage over Holocaust joke posted in Vancouver buy and sell group.” A “Jewish bunk bed for sale” was advertised on a Facebook buy and sell group with an image of an oven attached. The 17 year old (who is a minority himself) posted the ad and said it was a “joke” while many comments validated the ad and laughed it off.

In February 2017, the APA Group - an international hotel chain - was prompted to remove an in-house magazine from its rooms in six British Columbia Coast Hotels following complaints about antisemitic content by Vancouver's Jewish community. In the February issue of the magazine, an article quoted an interview between the hotel chain's founder, Toshio Motoya, and a Japanese politician, equating "international finance capital" with "Jewish capital" and including comments about Jews by Motoya. While the publication had been removed, the hotel chain did not release an apology.

KKK flyer left on doorstep in Fraser Valley

Pamphlets and flyers are still choice for white supremacists especially – used in an attempt to victimize and frighten people. Preceding the Nanaimo incident were racist KKK flyers left on doorsteps of Fraser Valley homes in October 2016 (the same flyer was distributed in Chilliwack in July and again in October Chilliwack, Mission and Abbotsford). In November 2016, “hundreds of flyers promoting white supremacy websites were strewn around Vernon, BC.”

Then in January 2017, Canadian Press headlines stated, “Abbotsford police investigated racist KKK flyers sent to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” The responsible group calls itself the “Loyal White Knights KKK.”

Swastikas on yellow flags in South Vancouver

A house was spotted in South Vancouver with swastikas on yellow flags flying at the front gate. While the homeowner, who is Hindu, stated he was playing host to a spiritual leader and argued the symbol is in "every temple" in India promoting peace, others argued that in the Western world the symbol is the opposite of peace.

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