Thank you, Mr. Chair, along with the members of the committee, for inviting our participation in this important discussion. My name is Shimon Fogel. I'm the president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy agent of the Jewish federations across Canada. We're a national non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than 150,000 Jewish Canadians affiliated through Jewish federations from coast to coast. Our mission is to preserve and protect the quality of Jewish life in Canada through advocacy.
For Canada's Jewish community, the conversation about ideologically motivated violent extremism is inextricably linked with anti-Semitism. As I speak, Jewish Canadians are facing a dangerous rise in anti-Semitism across the country, and indeed, around the world. The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, an organization that closely monitors the security situation of the Jewish community in the GTA, reported a fivefold spike in anti-Semitic incidents last month compared to previous months this year. In May, individuals who attended a peaceful pro-Israel rally in Montreal were pelted with rocks. Police seized weapons and made 15 arrests, including for armed assault. In April in Victoria, the words “Kill the Jews” and “Gas the Jews” were spray painted on a Jewish community institution. We too observed swastikas and Nazi symbols on banners at anti-Israel rallies in multiple cities. Jewish businesses were targeted across Canada, either by vandals or for boycotts.
In Canada, no one should ever feel that they're at risk in their own neighbourhood. No one should feel the need to hide their identity. No Canadian should be made to feel they do not belong, yet we have community members who are thinking twice before wearing a kippah or a Star of David necklace in public. This isn't the Canada we know or want.
In 2019, the most recent year for which Statistics Canada data are available, Jews were the most targeted religious group for police-reported hate crimes, and targets of the second-most-police-reported hate crime overall. On average, an anti-Semitic incident happens pretty much every day of the week, 365 days of the year. Comprising only less than 1% of the Canadian population, Jewish Canadians accounted for 16% of all victims of hate crimes in 2019, a trend repeated year after year. This should be of grave concern to all Canadians.
Anti-Semitic incidents are also occurring online, in troubling numbers, where anti-Semitism and ideological extremism percolate and pose a threat to the well-being of all Canadians. As social media has become central to our daily lives, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-authoritarian and other hate-filled groups are exploiting platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram to spread their toxic ideals, often targeting our children and young adults. These vile groups are also active on Parler, 8chan and in other dark corners of the Internet, where they promote their hatred, radicalize and recruit Canadian youth.
We know from experience that this toxicity spread online can and too often does have real-world consequences. Online activities spurred murders of Jews in Pittsburgh and Muslims in Christchurch. The Pittsburgh shooter reportedly posted more than 700 anti-Semitic messages in hate-filled online communities over nine months prior to the attack. The Christchurch shooter's livestreaming of the killings was a means of promoting and inciting more such heinous acts.
While we welcome the addition of the Proud Boys to the list of terrorist entities, we believe more needs to be done. For some time, we have strongly encouraged the Government of Canada to list both the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, in its entirety, and Samidoun, a PFLP-affiliated organization that operates right here in Canada.
However, we must disabuse ourselves of the idea that radicalization happens only with the support of an organized group. The proliferation of online content has empowered the so-called lone wolf. Radicalization can manifest remotely, circulating in chats and forums without the direct support or coordination of an organized group. This new threat also makes it even more difficult for police and security services to track suspicious activity. From what we understand of the horrific tragedy in London, the murderer acted independently and may have been radicalized as a lone wolf. The same is true of the 2018 Toronto van attack.
Anti-Semitism is not associated solely with ideologically motivated violent extremists. While Jew hatred is central to many xenophobic belief systems such as neo-Nazism and white supremacy, anti-Semitism is also a key component in both religiously motivated violent extremism and in politically motivated violent extremism. Anti-Semitism is a hatred that does not live in a single category. It finds purchase in all three.
What most people may not appreciate is that anti-Semitism is a threat not only to Jews, but also to all Canadians and to our way of life. Combatting anti-Semitism benefits all of us, and we need to call it out whenever and wherever we see it, because what starts with Jews never ends with Jews.
Jewish Canadians value our just, liberal democratic society. There has been a lot of discussion about the role of law enforcement. From our perspective, we believe a well-educated and a well-resourced police force is an essential component in flighting hate crime.
Let me conclude, therefore, by providing five recommendations for the committee's consideration.
First, we recommend that law enforcement be given the tools they need to combat hate and radicalization, including bolstering existing police hate crime and community liaison units, and providing funding to establish new units where they do not yet exist. This includes increasing resources for security services to monitor, track and protect Canadians from online radicalization.
Second, we recommend increasing resources for law enforcement, Crown attorneys, judges and others to ensure they receive sufficient training on the importance of combatting online hate.
Third, we also recommend strengthening legislation to combat online hate, including developing a multipronged approach to raise awareness of online hate, adopting civil remedies to combat online hate, and establishing requirements for online platforms and Internet service providers for monitoring and addressing online hate on their own platform.
Fourth, we believe that funding for the security infrastructure program, SIP, should be increased. This program allows at-risk private not-for-profit organizations, such as places of worship and educational institutions, to enhance their security. To quickly illustrate the value of the program, a security guard at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal was able to thwart an arson attack on the synagogue because of the surveillance cameras funded in part by the program.
Finally, we recommend Canada establish a community institution security rebate. As one of the groups most targeted by hate-motivated crime, Jewish institutions spend millions of dollars every year on security personnel. We recommend that the federal government implement a security rebate for at-risk places of worship, schools and community centres.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair and committee members, even though the Jewish community is resilient, we too feel vulnerable at the moment and we are respectfully asking you to take action. What we have proposed will not only serve the Jewish community, but it will benefit all Canadians. History has taught us repeatedly that if left unchecked, the toxin of anti-Semitism can poison all of us.
Thanks for inviting me here today.