MONTREAL — Four suspects, three of them minors, are expected to face charges related to incidents in the Ste. Agathe area this summer that appear to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.
The Sûreté du Québec arrested a minor for the assault of Mendy Haouzi, a 23-year-old McGill University student who alleged that he was struck in the face by a youth while he and his father and two younger half-brothers visiting from France were walking on a main street in the Laurentian resort town in August.
The three others were apprehended for vandalism in connection with the spray-painting earlier in the summer of cars owned by chassidic Jews who spend summers in the area.
Canadian Jewish Congress applauded the provincial police for the arrests and for the seriousness with which it has pursued these and other incidents in Ste. Agathe, which have worried the Jewish community.
“We are grateful to the SQ investigators, whose diligence and concerted efforts appear to have resulted in a successful end to their investigation,” Congress’ Quebec region president, Victor Goldbloom said in a statement. “Going forward, justice must follow its course. We should always remember that it is up to the courts to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, which, in the greatest democratic legal tradition, are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
He also expressed appreciation for “the unwavering determination” of Ste. Agathe Mayor Laurent Paquette and the town council to foster better relations between non-Jewish and Jewish citizens, most of whom live in the area only in the summer or on weekends.
B’nai Brith took a tougher line, urging that the suspects also be charged with hate crimes.
Allan Adel, national chair of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights, called these “hate-filled acts” part of a series targeting Jews in the Laurentians that have had a “devastating impact on the community.”
B’nai Brith has been monitoring an “escalation” of anti-Semitic incidents in and around Ste. Agathe over the past couple of years, he said.
“We have been in constant communication with victims of these terrible acts, as well as with the police, urging that the perpetrators be apprehended and brought to justice.
“The security of the Jewish community must remain a top priority.”
Rabbi Emanuel Carlebach, spiritual leader of Ste. Agathe’s House of Israel Congregation, said he hopes “something positive will come out of this.
“You have to ask what these young people are learning in the home. Why is there so much hate against Jews? I don’t understand it. There has to be more education of the parents and the kids.”
Rabbi Carlebach, who has led the congregation for 23 years, said this past summer was the worst he has known for vandalism and property crimes, as well as verbal harassment, directed at visibly observant Jews.
The violence against Haouzi in broad daylight was viewed as the most serious in a string of suspicious events.
On Saturday, Aug. 16, Haouzi was walking to Shabbat services at the House of Israel with his father and half-brothers aged 11 and 9, all wearing kippot.
He has told the media a group of youths began throwing coins at them and making derogatory remarks.
When he asked them why they were doing that, one of them punched him hard enough to cause a bloody nose and black eye.