Québec is a predominantly French-speaking province in eastern Canada with two vibrant cities in its south, connected by the Chemin du Roy highway along the Saint Lawrence River. The metropolis Montréal is named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Dating to 1608, its capital, Québec City retains its old colonial core, Place Royale, and historic harbor, Vieux Port, now known for nightlife. Its population is 8.2 million people, the second most populated province in Canada.
Reports of hate crime in Quebec have increased. Whereas in 2010 there were 198 reported hate crimes, by 2014 that number increased to 257. Reports in Montreal,Quebec’s largest city, increased as well from 87 in 2013 to 113 in 2015. As a result, the Montreal police opened its new Hate and Incident Crimes Unit in 2016.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 18 police-reported hate crimes in Gatineau, 276 in Montreal, 89 in Quebec City, 2 in Saguenay and 9 in Sherbrooke in 2018.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center is monitoring developments in Quebec on an ongoing basis and has highlighted four current events issues that are of interest, including: religious symbols in the public sector; border migration; nativist groups; and education.
A 2018 study commissioned by FSWC reveals that more than 72% of people in Quebec believe that it's important to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, while 17% said that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.
The same study revealed that more than 23% believe Jewish people in Canada have too much influence in the business world (almost 51% said Jews have "the right amount of influence and more than 23% said they're unsure about the level of influence); more than 23% said Jewish people have too much influence in international financial markets (more than 44% said "right amount of influence" and more than 29% said "unsure").
When it comes to the Canadian government, almost 24% of people in Quebec said Jewish people have too much influence, while almost 43% said there's the "right amount of influence" and more than 30% said they're unsure.
In regards to global media and global affairs, more than 19% said Jews have too much influence in media and more than 27% said Jews have too much influence in global affairs.
A 2020 study on Holocaust awareness and education reveals that almost 60% of people in Quebec believe that young people are not taught enough about the Holocaust in school and believe young people today are less aware of the Holocaust and its lessons than in the past. While 94% of Quebecers say teaching about discrimination is either somewhat important or important, 88% believe teaching about the Holocaust is either somewhat important or important.
In January 2020, a man in Granby was arrested and charged with inciting hate and advocating genocide after his posts on a Russian social media site – which included statements such as “the concentration camp is the greatest Nazi innovation”, “an Aryan world” is his 2020 resolution and that promoted purchasing weapons to hunt minority groups – were exposed.
FSWC is monitoring an increasing number of marches being staged by Quebec far-right groups, including one in early July in Montreal where a photo was taken depicting a protester performing the Nazi salute.
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 18, 2017, FSWC was dismayed to learn that synagogues in multiple cities - including Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal - 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."
On July 12, 2017, CBC News reported that Montreal Police have issued an arrest warrant for Imam Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al-Nasr, who allegedly made hateful comments against Jews. In a video that was posted on YouTube, the Imam was allegedly heard saying "O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."
On February 28, 2017, it was reported that the Imam at the Al Andalous Islamic Centre in Montreal conveyed antisemitic and conspiracy theories about Jews, their history and their origins. Sheikh Wael al Ghitawi is shown in a video claiming that Jews were “people who slayed the prophets, shed their blood and cursed the Lord” – as reported by MEMRI.
According to Janice Arnold of the CJN, another Imam at the same Mosque, Sayed al-Ghitawi was reported to have said in 2014, “destroy the accursed Jews” to “kill them one by one” and to “give victory to our brothers who engage in Jihad.” The “Incendiary speech” was condemned by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and The Muslim Association of Canada.
In February 2017, hateful messages against Jews and Israel, including praise for Hezbollah, were discovered on the City of Cote St. Luc website. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein advised the city contacted Google to try and find the origin of the hacker, while the police investigated the incident.
In 2016, Canadian Ministers of Parliament condemned content on the World Social Forum website – a renowned global conference held in Montreal. Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt particularly condemned a workshop entitled, “Terrorism, Wahabbism, Zionism” and an accompanying antisemitic cartoon – of a Jew with hooked nose and a long beard taking control of the world.
The push to promote the BDS movement at the conference was also vigorously condemned by political and civil society leaders alike prompting a cancellation of at least one of the talks at the conference.
During Hanukkah in 2019, an illuminated menorah installed by the House of Israel synagogue at a busy intersection in Ste-Agathe was the target of vandalism. It was reportedly repeatedly unplugged over the span of two weeks and had its cord cut by vandals.
In the first week of December 2019, swastikas drawn in snow were found on numerous cars in Montreal’s Plateau area, home to a large Jewish community. The swastikas were accompanied by drawings of the Star of David, in an apparent attempt to equate Judaism with Nazism.
In September 2019, in Montreal, several signs belonging to Liberal candidate Soraya Marinez Ferrada and Conservative candidates Mariam Ishak and Michael Forian were defaced with swastikas. Police complaints have been filed.
On March 30, 2018, photos of racist graffiti on a bus shelter in Gatineau began to circulate online. The graffiti, which police began investigating, included comments written in French and a swastika.
On New Year's Eve in Montreal, antisemitic graffiti was discovered on the door of an apartment. The graffiti included a swastika with the words "F--- the Jews."
According to Global News, a campaign sign for Dollard-des-Ormeaux (DDO) mayoral candidate Alex Bottausci was vandalized with an anti-Semitic message on October 5, 2017. “No more Jews” was written on the poster, covering his face.
Mayor Bruno Tremblay of the Saguenay area city of Saint-Honoré filed a complaint after someone scrawled “ville blanche” — white city — in red paint across the city’s welcome sign on September 13, 2017. This follows a similar event at the entrance to a local cemetery several weeks earlier.
Corey Fleischer -who dedicates his time to erasing hate graffiti - was called to remove graffiti at a park in Montreal. The phrase “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” – which translates into “work sets you free” in German and was used at the entrance of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust – was written on a playground in the Mile End neighbourhood. In a video he posted on his Facebook page on August 23, 2017, Fleischer said the city was notified about the hate crime at 9:45 a.m. but no one had shown up by the time the video was recorded in the afternoon.
According to the Montreal Gazette from August 22, 2017, a World War II anchor from a German Nazi ship located in a Pointe-des-Cascades, Quebec park - which appears to have been in the park for some time - had recently been repainted making the swastika symbol stand out (white background with a black swastika). A local citizen was working to remove the paint to make the swastika less visible when the mayor of the town asked him to leave, eventually calling the police. The anchor was reportedly not damaged. There is a request for public pressure to have the Nazi-era anchor removed from the park.
In July 2017, antisemitic vandals struck in Notre-Dame-de-Grace, where a couple found their car marked with graffiti of a swastika and the words "F--- all the Jews".
In February 2017, Outremont residents countered a spate of swastikas scrawled in snow covering parked cars by replacing them with hearts. The community targeted is Chassidic – a religious Jewish community.
Gutnick Mazel Jewish Centre in Dollard-des-Ormeaux was vandalized overnight in July 2016 with a hateful message spray-painted on its front door. The message, which read "It's the end", was being investigated by the hate crime unit.
In April 2016, thirteen locations throughout Laval, Quebec were struck with antisemitic vandalism. According to Laval police, swastikas were drawn on houses, cars, park benches and a park chalet alongside other white supremacist symbols. The vandals also drew a giant Star of David with an X over it.
In January of 2016, a dozen antisemitic symbols were scrawled on the Lachapelle Bridge between Montreal and Laval. In March, five swastikas were painted on five cars in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. Similarly, in Saint-Lazare, swastikas had been carved into several signs at a local park.
In December 2019, the Students’ Society of McGill University Legislative Council approved a motion that threatened a Jewish student with removal from the Board of Directors if she accepted a trip to Israel sponsored by Hillel Montreal. The Board of Directors overturned the motion during a meeting to ratify motions.
In an editorial in November 2019, McGill Daily editors falsely described Zionism as a “colonial movement,” a“racist attitude” and “a violent practice,” and advised students who wanted to learn more about Zionism to refer to a leading BDS website for more information. The editors also refused to publish a letter by two Jewish pro-Israel law students decrying the paper’s antisemitic description of Zionism on the basis that the students are not entitled to be part of a “dialogue that gives a platform to ideas which dehumanize a group of people.”
FSWC was shocked to learn that a Jewish member on the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) was banned from his duties due to his involvement in the Jewish community. The decision was made on October 23 at the student council's Fall General Assembly. FSWC sent a letter to the university's principal and vice-chancellor, who has since requested an investigation into the matter.
At Quebec universities, antisemitism and hate are masked by the Middle East political debate. In April 2017, The Concordia Student Union defended its association with an event called “Passover Against Apartheid.” Jewish students were shocked by this new forum for antisemitism and what they termed, cultural appropriation, which was co-hosted by an anti-Israel group – ‘Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights.’
In February 2017, a massive uproar erupted at McGill University and subsequently around the world when an anti-Israel student leader tweeted, “Punch a Zionist today.” Many interpreted this be a call to violence against Jewish students and Jews in general. The new face of antisemitism is anti-Zionism.
On February 24, 2017, the Montreal Gazette reported swastika drawings had been found on McGill’s campus. Two separate incidents were discovered with one linked to the “Punch a Zionist” incident while the other one – a swastika was drawn on a whiteboard. Jewish students spoke out about feeling victimized by this type of hate on campus.
Antisemitism at McGill University is an increasing trend. In November 2016, the McGill Daily told a Jewish student that “The Daily maintains an editorial line of not publishing pieces which promote a Zionist worldview, or any other ideology which we consider oppressive.” Zionism is simply a Jewish longing to return to the homeland, the land of Israel.
In early August 2019, a Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted by a taxi driver in Montreal. The assault happened after the taxi driver blocked a garage door and the Jewish man honked to signal that he should move away from the door. The taxi driver reportedly shouted “I won’t move for any f***ing Jews!” and punched the Jewish man repeatedly while shouting antisemitic slurs after the victim attempted to photograph the taxi number to file a complaint.
A team of reporters at the Montreal Gazette were recently commended by FSWC for the irrevelation that a prominent international neo-Nazi writer and recruiter is, in fact, a former IT specialist living in the city's Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough. The neo-Nazi, who is behind the moniker "Zeiger" and is described as "the second-most prolific writer on the Daily Stormer,"has been actively recruiting, holding private gatherings at local bars. The story came out two days after a Nazi flag was seen flying on top of a condo building as a May Day march passed by below in Montreal.
FSWC was shocked by the display of yellow badges by residents during a council meeting in March 2018 in the Montreal borough of Outremont. A group of local residents attended the meeting to protest the use of school buses used by the Hasidic community throughout the year, calling the buses a nuisance.
Possibly the worst hate crime committed in Canada in 2017 was against the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City on January 29, 2017. Six people were killed and nineteen others injured when a lone gunman opened fire during evening prayers. The suspected perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, an alleged white supremacist, has been charged with six counts of murder.