Fire at Toronto mosque raises concerns over spike in hate crimes
On Tuesday night, a fire broke out at an Islamic center in the west end of the city damaging the roof and leaving a waft of burning plastic. Toronto police are currently investigating it, and a number of other fires in the area over the last week, as arson — not a hate crime.
“We have to wait to see what the Toronto police determine may have happened here. But of course the moment that you have any kind of place of worship or any kind of religious institution potentially targeted in this way, then of course community members are going to be quite concerned that there may have been a bias in that particular attack,” said Amira Elghawaby of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Hate incidents targeting religious groups, particularly Muslim communities, continue to rise across Canada in the months since the election of President Donald Trump and a shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six people dead.
Very rarely does a hate crime ever result in a conviction, due to the nature of the crime itself, and the burden of proof placed on the prosecution.
And because there’s no national tracker of hate crimes, and statistics published by the federal government are always two years out of date, it’s up to nonprofit groups like the National Council of Canadian Muslims and researchers to try to keep tabs on them in real time.
Here are a few of the latest over the last month:
- A 26-year-old man was charged with hate crimes in Montreal last Tuesday after he allegedly smashed the windows of a mosque that serves a congregation mostly of people from countries in Africa. The imam there told CBC News it has been vandalized at least three times in recent years, including an attempt to light it on fire.
- Police in Red Deer, Alberta launched a hate crime investigation and are seeking a male suspect after he allegedly wrote an offensive message in the snow outside a local Islamic Center last week. “There was a racial slur scrawled into the snow … and it was toward the Islamic people here,” Const. Derek Turner told reporters. “I don’t want to give any credence to what the actual wording was but it certainly constitutes a hate crime.”
- After receiving a complaint about a dozen people who protested outside one of downtown Toronto’s main mosques earlier this month, the Toronto police hate crimes unit said it was looking into the matter. The group held signs with anti-Muslim phrases during Friday prayers, as local supporters placed signs of solidarity with the mosque on its door to counter the protesters.
- Toronto police are investigating anti-Semitic notes left outside the doors of residents in an apartment building. Mezuzahs, Jewish religious symbols, were also removed from some doorframes.
- A man was charged in Montreal after a Muslim man claimed he was physically assault and verbally attacked by employees at a mechanical shop who refused to fix his car.
- Police in Hamilton are investigating after a swastika and the phrase “gas the Jews” were spray-painted on the ground of public trail. Other swastika graffiti was found in a university bathroom and other streets across the city. “The extreme right and the extremists seem to feel that this is their time,” a spokesperson of a local temple told reporters.
Cover: People rally outside the Khadijah Islamic centre in the Montreal borough of Pointe-Saint-Charles, Friday, February 3, 2017, in a show of support after vandals broke a window and pelted the building with eggs. Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press