There’s no place for the swastika in Canadian political discourse

September 13, 2021

Column

By Michael Levitt

Talk about a troubling sign of the times, literally and figuratively. No sooner did candidates in the federal election start erecting their campaign signs than people defaced many of them with vile graffiti.

Most disturbingly, their vandalism has often featured the swastika, a despicable symbol fraught with hate and racism. Since mid-August, the frequent marring of signs has targeted Jewish and non-Jewish candidates alike.

This attack on democracy is happening in ridings across the country. In Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia vandals have sullied dozens of candidate signs. It’s part of a troubling undercurrent of hate and hostility that has darkened the election campaign.

Whatever the motivation, this is an odious attack on our democratic process. Even with the intensity of political invective, there’s no excuse for using the swastika. Since Nazi Germany made it part of its genocidal racist ideology, it’s been synonymous with antisemitism and the Holocaust. Using such an emblem to defile election signs reflects, at best, shameful ignorance and a misguided sense of protest. More often, it’s a deliberate act of hate-filled intimidation and harassment.

The swastika is especially heinous when directed against Jews, as vandals have done in Montreal against the current campaigns of two Jewish candidates, Rachel Bendayan and Anthony Housefather. Given its history, the swastika is especially toxic for Jews, as it evokes the antisemitic persecution and genocide committed by the Nazis.

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