TORONTO — Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said a federal government program that provides funds for security enhancements to communities at risk of being victims of hate crimes will be extended for a third year.
Van Loan made the announcement at a press conference on Sunday at the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre. Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber and Thornhill Tory MP Peter Kent were also in attendance.
Van Loan said the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP) is intended to provide support for all communities in need of assistance against threats and acts of violence and terrorism, not just the Jewish community.
The $3-million, three-year pilot project was announced by former public safety minister Stockwell Day in 2007. Sunday’s announcement confirmed that up to $1 million will be made available for the final year.
Van Loan said that any communities that had not yet applied for funds could do so by the June 17 deadline.
The minister, who visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., recently, said that “fairly innocuous hate-motivated crimes, small acts of vandalism, small acts that made a community feel insecure” allow for “greater, more heinous acts to take place.”
Farber said that “the very fact that our government understands the need for [security programs] and comes to the fore in such a strong way, brings, I think, a lot of confidence to the community. It speaks volumes to a government that understands the need to endure, that there’s a level of comfort, there’s an ease, that communities feel protected.”
Farber recalled an attack on a Jewish day school in Montreal two years ago. The perpetrators were captured on camera and eventually prosecuted. The increased use of security cameras on public grounds of Jewish institutions is an example of ways the SIP program can improve safety measures for Toronto’s citizens, he said.
CJC co-president Rabbi Reuven Bulka said in a statement that “we know from experience, underneath the violence and physical damage of hate crimes, there is a deeper psychological damage to the victimized community who feel isolated, vulnerable and unwelcome.
“We applaud Minister Van Loan and the entire government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for continuing to say in a definitive, tangible way that this is un-Canadian and unacceptable.”
In a statement, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto chair David Koschitzky commended the federal government “for continuing its partnership with at-risk communities in extending the SIP… In order for any community to thrive and participate in the rich cultural landscape of our nation, it needs to feel secure and protected.”
Federation said it spends more than $1 million a year on security costs for the community.