B’nai Brith Canada says the rash of spray-painted swastikas and other neo-Nazi graffiti in a Laval neighbourhood last month should be investigated as a hate crime.
“We get many reports of swastikas all over the city, but usually it is random. I have never seen that many [such symbols] in one place at one time,” said B’nai Brith regional director Harvey Levine of the incident that occurred over the night of March 28-29.
“This took a certain sophisticated knowledge and research to know what these different types of symbols mean… It took time and effort to send this message.”
B’nai Brith is convinced that more than one person was involved because of the differing styles of the drawings, he said.
Levine said that if incidents like this are not deemed suspected hate crime and rather treated as simple vandalism, the police generally give them a lower priority.
As of April 6, Laval police were operating on the theory that a minor or minors are responsible for the graffiti, which appeared at 13 locations in the city’s Laval-des-Rapides district.
The force’s spokesperson Evelyne Boudreau said the graffiti, executed with the same paint, was confined to within about two blocks of Parc de Cluny. The park’s chalet and benches were hit, as well as nearby homes, vehicles and traffic signs.
Because no religious or community institutions were targeted, the police have not deemed it a hate crime, she said. Very few Jews are known to live in Laval-des-Rapides.
Corey Fleischer, who owns a power-washing company based in Lachine, said he removed a total of 30 symbols himself, after the city of Laval had not cleaned off those on public property four days after they appeared.
On his Facebook page, Fleischer says he removed 22 swastikas; the rest included SS symbols, the code 14/88 (which apparently refers to a 14-word white supremacist slogan and “Heil Hitler,” “h” being the eighth letter of the alphabet), and a Magen David with a line through it and the words “No thanks” above.
If there was ever any question or doubt about which ethnicity is being targeted by these Hate Crimes, this right here should answer all your questions. Laval, Quebec
Posted by Corey Fleischer on Friday, April 1, 2016
Fleischer, who for several years has been removing anti-Semitic and other racist graffiti in the Montreal area free of charge, believes what happened in Laval is a hate crime and is specifically directed at Jews. He feels the use of the Magen David leaves no doubt about that.
“[That] one, among all of them, resonates with me the most. If there was any question of who was targeted by these hate crimes, what ethnicity, this right here states everything,” he says pointing to the Magen David in a video posted on his website.
Fleischer said he has removed many swastikas and the like in and around Montreal, in all kinds of areas, over the years, but not so many in one place. He warns of a dramatic increase in the prevalence of such incidents since 2014.
He is angry because he does not think government is taking it seriously.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is taking a muted stance on what happened in Laval.
“Obviously, any anti-Semitic graffiti is disturbing, but we will wait to see what the police investigation finds. We are confident the police are taking this seriously,” said CIJA Quebec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko.
Meanwhile, the Quebec minister for immigration, diversity and inclusion, Kathleen Weil, issued a press release on April 5 condemning a series of other recent “hateful” incidents that have been reported in the media.
She referred to the attack on the street of a Toronto man wearing a Sikh turban who was visiting Quebec City, threats made on social media against the co-president of the Association des musulmans et Arabes pour la laïcité au Québec (the Association of Muslims and Arabs for Secularism in Quebec), and insults directed at women wearing face veils on Montreal streets.
“The Quebec government condemns vigorously all words, threats and acts of a hateful, violent or racist character. These behaviours are unacceptable and have no place in our inclusive society, open to diversity,” she stated.