Québec is a predominantly French-speaking province in eastern Canada with 2 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.
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.
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.
At Quebec universities, antisemitism and hate are masked by the Middle East political debate. 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 24th, 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 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 Outremont, some residents were countering a spate of swastikas scrawled in snow covering parked cars by replacing them with hearts. The community targeted is Chassidic – a religious Jewish community.
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 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.
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 July 2016, CTV Montreal reported that a synagogue at the Gutnick Mazel Jewish Centre in Dollard des Ormeaux was vandalized. A message reading “it’s the end” was spray painted across the front door.
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.