Rise in antisemitic, Islamophobic threats has Canadians 'scared in our own streets,' PM says

Prime minister calls for humanitarian pause in Israel-Gaza war

Rise in antisemitic, Islamophobic threats has Canadians 'scared in our own streets,' PM says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling out what he describes as a "terrifying" rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia across the country as the Israel-Hamas war grinds on.

Trudeau also repeated his call for a humanitarian pause in the conflict so that hostages can be freed, foreign nationals can leave and much-needed aid can be delivered to the residents of Gaza.

"We're seeing right now a rise in antisemitism that is terrifying. Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogues," Trudeau said on his way into a caucus meeting in Ottawa Wednesday. "Horrific threats of violence threatening Jewish businesses, targeting Jewish daycares with hate.

"This needs to stop. This is not who we are as Canadians. This is something that is not acceptable in Canada, period."

Trudeau said eruptions of antisemitism and Islamophobia have left Canadians "scared in our own streets."

"The expression of hate against Muslims, against Palestinians, against anyone waving a Palestinian flag, is unacceptable," he said.

"This is a time where we need to lead … That's the responsibility of every single Canadian, to see how we are recognizing each other's pain and fear and move forward on it.

"And if Canada can't figure this out, tell me what corner of the world is going to figure this out."

A humanitarian pause

Israel has pounded Gaza from the air and used ground troops to divide the narrow coastal strip in two, following the Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, when gunmen killed 1,400 people, including several Canadians, and took some 240 hostages.

The Canadian government has designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack killed 1,400 people, including several Canadians, and saw some 240 people taken hostage.

Over the past month, the Israeli bombardment has killed more than 10,568 Palestinians, around 40 per cent of them children, according to counts by health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Trudeau said that every day since the attacks "against innocent lives in Israel," the world has been inundated with images of violence against children and the elderly. He said a humanitarian pause in hostilities is necessary to deliver aid and calm tensions.

"A humanitarian pause is going to allow all the hostages to be released, allow us to continue doing the world of getting all foreign nationals out of Gaza," he said. "A pause long enough to … begin doing the work of de-escalating the situation."

Trudeau said the world must return to "imagining what the long-term future of a viable Palestinian state looks like: safe, secure, beside a safe, secure, viable and successful Israeli state."

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who is Jewish, told reporters Wednesday that many Jewish Canadians feel unsafe in Canada now.

"What I would say right now is I've never seen a time when Jewish Canadians have felt as scared, as angry, as frustrated in a country that we've been part of since before Confederation," he said on his way into the Liberal caucus meeting.

Housefather said that while condemnation of extremist activity is important, "it's very important for police across this country to watch when demonstrators cross a line and speak hate speech and call for genocide against people and call for killing of people or harming of people."

Jewish community centre hit with Molotov cocktail

The Montreal police arson squad and hate crimes unit investigators are investigating after a Jewish community centre in the city was hit by Molotov cocktails earlier this week.

Investigators on the scene Tuesday morning found pieces of a glass bottle and charred markings on the front door of the synagogue, Congregation Beth Tikvah, where a small fire had burned.

No one was injured and the damage was minor, a Montreal police spokesperson said.

Since Oct. 7, Montreal police have recorded 48 reported hate crimes and hate incidents against the Jewish community and 17 against the Arab-Muslim community. In 2022, Montreal police recorded 72 hate crimes and incidents against all groups for the entire year.

Rabbi Idan Scher, the senior rabbi of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, called Ottawa police after receiving a threatening phone call that resulted in a 29-year-old man being arrested and charged with several offences.

A recent Senate report on Islamophobia warned that urgent action needs to be taken to reverse the rising tide of hate against Muslims in the country.

The report said "incidents of Islamophobia are a daily reality for many Muslims."

"I think the report is really a confirmation of what we have been seeing over many years, but particularly over the last few weeks, since October 7," said Uthman Quick, director of communications for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).