Canadians need a reality check about who exactly is victimised by hate crimes

A longer version of this article was first published in Rabble.ca

Muhammed Abu Marzouk

Abu Marzouk of Mississauga, Ont. courtesy of LaunchGood.

 

While anti-Semitism is a scourge and should be dealt with seriously, the main targets of harassment and violence in Canada are not Jews. Rather it is people of colour, notably Blacks, Muslims, Arabs, and Indigenous people who have been attacked and brutalised in Canadian communities. Most recently, it is Muslims who have been the target of violence, and even murder.

This week, the media highlighted 5 racial attacks.

  • First was the brutal assault of a 39-year old man in Mississauga, Ont. who tried to drive home from a community picnic. Was he or anyone in his community Jewish? No. Two white brothers shouted “Fucking Arab people—terrorists” while they kicked his car. Mohammed Abu Marzouk got out of his car and –while his two young daughters looked on — the two assailants beat him so badly he barely survived.

 

  • We were reminded about the men shot to death while at prayer in January 2017. Six months previous, a pig’s head had been left on the steps of the same house of worship. Were the victims Jews? Did the attack take place at a synagogue? No the murder rampage happened at a mosque in Quebec City. A 28-year-old white Quebecois, Alexandre Bissonnette, took an assault rifle into the mosque killing six men, and injuring five more.

 

  • Two months after the shooting at the mosque, 80 protestors barged into a meeting of the Peel District School Board (near Toronto). They demanded the board ban a religious group from praying together on Fridays—as had been allowed for twenty years. One protestor ripped apart a holy book – scattering the pages then stomping on them. Did the man tear up the Five Books of Moses, or the Torah? No—he tore the Qur’an from cover to cover, as others in his group shouted out Islamophobic slurs.

 

  • Last week a young man with a beard was terrorised while shopping in a Sobey’s grocery store in London, Ont. A white man in a red t-shirt screamed that the bearded man was an “illegal alien” and tried to prevent him from leaving the store. The bearded man was not a Jew but a Muslim. The police later said the victim didn’t want to press charges.

 

  • Four months ago, a group of friends were eating at Denny’s in Lethbridge, Alberta. A woman at the next table taunted them with a racist diatribe and told them to “go back to your fucking country.” Were they targeted because they were Jews? No, they were Muslim.

 

  • And this just in, last week a white half-ton truck drove onto the sidewalk in a residential area of Saskatoon, nearly killing one man. Was he Jewish? No, he was a Muslim who had just walked home from morning prayers. So far the police have laid no charges.

 

Statistics Canada’s figures show there has been a 60% increase in hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015; there has been a 253% increase from 2012 to 2015. In 2015 there were 159 incidents reported against Muslims, versus 99 the previous year.

Police classify hate crime incidents in two ways. One includes violence, such as assault, threats, or criminal harassment. They account for 38% of police-reported hate crimes –- up 15% from 2014 to 2015. The other kind of hate crime is classified as non-violent. Incidents can include mischief, vandalism or graffiti. Non-violent incidents have increased by 5% in the same time period

While in terms of hate crimes motivated solely by religion, police reported Jews were targets in 213 incidents, and Muslims were targets in 178 incidents. While Statistics Canada claims nearly half (48%) of hate crimes based on religion are against Jews—only 16% of all hate-motivated crimes are based on religion.

However 50% of Canada’s hate-motivated crimes involve race. In 2015, nearly 35% of hate crimes happened to members of the Black community; 14% of hate crimes targeted people of middle eastern descent. But the numbers could be higher as experts warn that often racially marginalized people do not report incidents for fear of further victimization, or concern the police will do nothing about it.

However, despite the fact that Blacks and Muslims are the main targets of racial violence, B’nai Brith, in it’s Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents 2017, deliberately conflates their evidence of actual personal harm or violence done to Canadian Jews with vandalism to buildings and verbal harassment. Looking at the Audit’s own figures in each of 2015 and 2016, far less than 1% of incidents against Jews involved violence. What is more telling is that B’nai Brith never gives any examples of person-on-person attacks, or violent incidents that happened to Jews. This tells us there were probably no violent attacks on Jews, as we have seen against Muslims.

Of course we don’t want to see anyone hurt or killed in Canada – being targeted for their religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or other grounds proscribed by the provincial Human Rights Acts. B’nai Brith– in trying to establish that Jews face the most hate crimes –are doing a disservice to us all and deflecting the reality that Jews are not the predominant victims of violent hate crimes in Canada. Every week, Blacks, Arabs and other racialised Canadians are the targets of violent crimes – crimes that maim and sometimes kill – which is something no Canadian Jew has to face.

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Please note:  There was one case of a Jewish man killed in Canada.  In 2002, David Rosenzveig, 48, bearded and wearing a skull-cap and suit , was killed on a Toronto street.  The murderer, Christoper Steven McBride was sentenced to second degree murder and sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.  Both the crown and the defence agreed the killing was not a hate crime; it was attributed to McBride’s  “escalating anti-social behaviour”, his drug and alcohol abuse and his long criminal record. 

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