Rally held outside Toronto Jewish school after shooting

A crowd gathered outside Bais Chaya Mushka Monday after a shooting over the weekend. (Myriam Eddahia/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A crowd gathered outside Bais Chaya Mushka Monday after a shooting over the weekend. (Myriam Eddahia/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A crowd of supporters, community members and politicians rallied in North York Monday to condemn hatred and antisemitism after shots were fired at a Jewish girls' elementary school over the weekend.

Daniel Held, chief program officer at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, denounced the shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka school, calling it an attempt to intimidate and isolate Jewish people.

"It was a deliberate attempt to spread fear across our entire Jewish community — to make us cower and hide who we are," Held told a crowd of onlookers who had gathered in the rain.

"But as you can see here today, the attackers completely failed. We are more united than ever. We are more committed than ever to support each other. We are more determined than ever to fight antisemitism wherever it happens."

In a news release Monday, police said video footage collected from the area shows that around 4:50 a.m. Saturday, a dark-coloured vehicle pulled up in front of the school and two suspects opened fire.

Investigators have released some of that footage:

A bullet hole was found in a window at the school, and other "evidence of gunfire" was also located, police said. No one was inside the school at the time.

Toronto police say both the guns and gangs task force and the hate crime unit are now investigating, and people can expect to see an increased police presence in the area, as well as outside of schools and synagogues.

Investigation underway

It's too early to say for certain if the shooting was hate-motivated, according to investigators. But Premier Doug Ford and other politicians have labelled it as an antisemitic act and are condemning it.

"We're not going to ignore the obvious, you know, what occurred here and what the target of the shooting was," Toronto police Insp. Paul Krawczyk said at a news conference over the weekend.

"But at the same time, it will be wrong to just guess at this point."

Myriam Eddahia/Radio-Canada
Myriam Eddahia/Radio-Canada

Federal Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc told reporters in Ottawa Monday that he was shocked to hear about the incident, and called it a "hateful, violent act."

LeBlanc said he has spoken with the RCMP about it, and officials said they are working collaboratively with Toronto police as part of the investigation.

Mayor calls perpetrators 'cowards'

Several politicians spoke at Monday's rally including Mayor Olivia Chow, who called the shooting a "despicable, antisemitic act.

"It was a disgusting attempt to intimidate the community, to fill people with fear," she said.

Chow called those responsible "cowards," and added "we will find you, you will be held responsible."

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce also spoke, and urged people who aren't Jewish to stand up against incidents of antisemitism.

"We are here with a message, asking Canadians to stand up shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community in defence of democracy, civility, human rights and the rule of law," Lecce said.

Rabbi Yaacov Vidal, the school's principal, said the shooting was shocking and thanked police for their dedication to protecting the community.

"Children go to school, and they deserve to be safe," he said. "We live in a democratic country, and everyone deserves to be able to practise their religion in peace."