Canadian Jewish Human Rights Activist Calls for Stricter Enforcement of Hate Crimes Statutes After Antisemitic Graffiti Found at Ontario High School
A prominent Canadian Jewish human rights activist has called for stricter enforcement of hate crime statutes after graffiti blaming Jews for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was found at an Ontario high school.
Avi Benlolo — the president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) — said he believed greater implementation of Canada’s laws banning hate speech would act as a deterrent to behavior like the spray-painting of antisemitic messages on the walls of York’s Woodbridge College High School on June 29.
“Once somebody is caught and the act is determined to be a hate crime, and charges are brought and made public, I think we’d see this type of thing go down,” Benlolo told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
The words “Jews did 911” and a picture of a plane crashing into what appeared to be two buildings, in addition to at least three swastikas, were drawn on school buildings, according to anonymous reports sent into FSWC and B’nai Brith Canada, another Jewish advocacy group.
The images were found soon before Woodbridge’s graduation ceremony was set to take place, and staff quickly scrubbed off the graffiti ahead of the event.
Benlolo said though it’s not extraordinary to find “the odd swastika, in this particular case, they [the perpetrators] went all out.”
He said that he was not aware of any Jewish students at Woodbridge.
An investigation by the York Region Police is ongoing.
In a statement, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, commended the officers for responding to “deplorable incidents like these…with the seriousness they deserve.”
“We think they are very close to finding whoever did it,” said Benlolo, who added that he has been in touch with the York Chief of Police, a hate crimes detective and the mayor of the town where the school is located. He also contacted Woodbridge, but has yet to hear back.
Benlolo said education was key to putting an end to incidents of this kind. FSWC’s initiatives include a roving, mobile tolerance center, which includes workshops, films and other resources about antisemitism, the Holocaust and racist hate. The pod visits some 200 students, from fourth grade through university age, every day of the school year.
“The younger you inoculate them against antisemitism, and hatred in general, the better it is,” said Benlolo.
Representatives at the York Region School Board District were not immediately available for comment.