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Antisemitism in Canada

Ever since Canada’s Jewish community was established in the 18th century, antisemitism in Canada has affected Canadian Jews.[1][2]


  • Up until the 1930s 1
  • 1930s-1940s 2
  • 1950-present 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Up until the 1930s

In 1807, when Ezekiel Hart was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada, he was sworn in using a Hebrew Bible not a Christian Bible. An objection was raised that Hart had not taken the oath in the manner required for sitting in the assembly — an oath of abjuration, which would have required Hart to swear "on the true faith of a Christian". Hart was expelled from the assembly due to his religious beliefs.

In 1910, Joseph Plamondon encouraged the public to attack Jewish storekeepers and businesses in Quebec City. The shopkeepers took legal action against Plamondon, but were awarded minimal costs four years later.


During the 1930s and 1940s, several societal models reflected anti-Semitism. In British Columbia and Saskatchewan, laws denied voting rights on the ground of religion in provincial and federal elections. Those disqualified from voting were also disqualified from jury duty, public office and volunteering in war.

Between 1930 and 1939, Canada rejected almost all Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, taking in only 4,000 of the 800,000 Jews looking for refuge. MS St. Louis sailed from Hamburg in May 1939, carrying 937 Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution.[3] The destination was Cuba, but officials in Havana cancelled Jewish passengers' visas. Jewish immigration was strictly limited in North America, so the passengers were denied entrance to Canada and the United States.[3]

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Frederick Blair, Thomas Crerar, Vincent Massey, Ernest Lapointe, Thomas Dufferin Pattullo, Wilfrid Lacroix, Hervé-Edgar Brunelle, Charlotte Whitton, Maurice Duplessis, Norman Robertson were all actively involved in the Antisemitic Xenophobia that resulted in the turning away of the MS St. Louis.

A 1943 Gallup poll put Jews in third place, behind the Japanese and Germans, as the least desirable immigrants to Canada.[4]

The Great Depression encouraged a search for scapegoats among so-called "foreigners" including Canadian-born Jews, and the rise of Hitler in Germany, along with international anti-semitic propaganda, justified prejudice and exclusionary practices against Jews in Canada.

Outbreaks of violence against Jews and Jewish property culminated in 1933 with the Fascism Convention was held in Toronto's Massey Hall.[4]

The outbreak of World War II saw more anti-Semitic practices. Units in the Canadian Forces rejected Jewish volunteers, and the Canadian National Selective Service discriminated against Jews when assigning workers to munitions factories. A post-War Gallup poll placed Jews second behind the Japanese on a list of most undesirable immigrants.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, employment discrimination against Jews in Canada was rampant. During this time, prohibitions stopped Jews from becoming lawyers, pharmacists, miners, loggers, or fishermen, and denied them minimum wage rights and welfare benefits. Typical employment applications asked for racial origin and religion, and if a Jew was inadvertently hired due to misrepresentation, he or she could be fired. There were few Jewish teachers, professors, architects, principals, engineers or accountants. Many institutions set quotas on how many Jews they would hire, or hired none at all (such as the City of Toronto, which refused to hire Jewish police officers and transit workers). Often owners and managers displayed signs such as “Gentiles Only,” or “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.”

A 1948 article on anti-Semitism in Canada written for MacLean’s magazine by Pierre Berton illustrates this racism: Berton hired two young women to apply for the same jobs, one under the name Greenberg, and the other under the name Grimes. While Grimes received interviews for nearly every application, positions available for Grimes were "already filled" when Greenberg applied, or Greenberg’s applications were ignored. When Berton contacted several of these companies, he was told, “Jews did not have the right temperament,” that “they don’t know their place” or that “we don’t employ Jews.”[4]

Universities and professional schools set quotas on Jewish enrollment or refused Jewish applicants. For example, the Toronto General Hospital accepted only one Jewish intern per year.

In 1934, all interns at Hôpital Notre-Dame in Montréal walked off the job to protest the hiring of a Jewish senior intern who had graduated from the Université de Montréal, Dr. Samuel Rabinovitch. The dispute was resolved after several days when the new intern resigned his position. The hospital administration did arrange another internship post for Dr. Rabinovitch in St. Louis, Missouri where he remained until 1940, after which he returned to Montréal and a medical practice.[5][6]

Clubs and resorts in Canada also denied Jews access using "exclusive" policies. The St. Andrews Golf Club in Toronto displayed a sign that read, "This course is restricted to Gentiles only. Please do not question this policy." A Montreal resort boasted a sign that read "Christians Only" and someone "walked along the beach with a megaphone, politely inquiring whether there was a Jew present despite the warning, and asking him to leave as quickly as possible."

Berton, during his research on Canadian anti-Semitism, sent two different letters to 29 summer resorts, one signed Marshall, the other signed Rosenberg. "Marshall" was able to book twice as many reservations as "Rosenberg." Some resorts did not reply to "Rosenberg", and some told "Rosenberg" they were fully booked.

Anti-semitic residential segregation was also prevalent during the 1930s and 1940s, and was accomplished through restrictive covenants. These were agreements among owners of properties to not sell or rent to members of certain races, including Jews, or were clauses registered against deeds by land developers that restricted ownership based on racial origin. At the time, restrictive covenants could be enforced by the courts.[4]


Antisemitism is still a concern in Canada.[7] On April 12, 2012 several Jewish-owned summer homes in Val Morin were broken into and defaced with swastikas and anti-semitic messages.

In 2009, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism was established by major federal political parties to investigate and combat antisemitism, namely new antisemitism.[8] However, antisemitism is less of a concern in Canada than in most countries with significant Jewish populations. The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith monitors incidents and issues an annual audit of these events. On November 2011 an antisemitic attack took place at the south Winnipeg high school when a teen approached a 15-year-old girl as they crossed paths near his locker and began talking to her. He pulled out a lighter and started flicking it near her head, saying, "let's burn the Jew." [9]

According to the "2013 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents" written by the B'nai Brith Canada, there was a decrease in the number of Antisemitic incidents during 2013 of 5.3%. Despite that, cases of vandalism roses by 21.8% while violence increased by one incident and harassment cases dropped by 13.9%.[10] These incidents include antisemitic graffitis, paintings of swastikas in Jewish neighborhood, firebomb attacks, antisemitic statements, etc.[11] Antisemitic graffiti and swastika inscriptions has been also found during 2014.[12][13]

On April 2014, an anti-Israel demonstration took place in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. During the demonstration there were chanted some slogans, such as: “Netanyahu and Hitler are the same; the only difference is the name.” ; “Israel and [the] Nazis are the same; the only difference is the name.” and so on. Beside those Phrases, former President of the Palestine House warned the Canadians: "Zionists are taking over Canada. They are taking over our government. Be careful, wake up Canada, wake up, Zionists are taking over the country.”[14][15] The similarity between those accusations to the claims of Nazi Germany cannot be denied. That's consistent with Elhanan Yakira in "Studies in Antisemitism : Resurgent Antisemitism : Global Perspectives": "...the deligitimizing discource [anti-Zionism] does nothing but give false intellectual respect to what is wholly disreputable and shameful [antisemitism]".[16]

In mid-May 2014, several headstones at a McPhillips Street cemetery in the city of Winnipeg were knocked over. The vandalism occurred at Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery between the afternoon of May 9 and 8:30 a.m. on May 11. Approximately 20 headstones were vandalized at the Hebrew cemetery, in which an estimated $40,000 to $60,000 in damage was sustained.[17] Later on, Racist graffiti scrawled at 7 locations in Victoria and Saanich. The antisemitic graffiti included swastika symbols and the n-word on signs, the side of buildings and playground equipment.[18]

On July 2014 there were some antisemitic incidents, part of them occurred during pro-Palestine rallies. In the beginning of the month, a Jewish man was hit by Palestinian mob with both Palestine flags and Canadian flags.[19] Later that month, a Jewish women with an Israeli flag was verbally attacked by a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.[20] Beside those incidents, there were at least seven reported cases of antisemitism in Montreal only, one of them was a physical attack of a Jewish tourist from France.[21] There were also a few antisemitic graffiti sprayed in bus stations.[22] But the antisemitism has kept appearing in the state even after the operation in Gaza ended. There were at least three cases of antisemitic graffiti such as swastika sprayed on the Simon’s building [23] or outside the Richmond school.[24] Another event occurred in Toronto when dog excrement smeared on Chabad synagogue.[25]

At the end of September, an antisemitic, hateful letter was received in the editorial board of "The Suburban" newspaper. The message was written on the previous week story- the Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s speech entitled “The days when Jews run away are over!”. The message was "There is no place to run anymore.” and “Soon you will become a soap.”[26]

See also


  1. ^ Manuel Prutschi, "Anti-Semitism in Canada", Fall 2004. Accessed March 29, 2008.
  2. ^ Dr. Karen Mock, "Hate Propaganda and Anti-Semitism: Canadian Realities", April 9, 1996. Accessed March 29, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "The Story: The Voyage". Voyage of the St. Louis. Washington, DC: United States Memorial Holocaust Museum. Archived from the original on 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-08-30. 
  4. ^ a b c d Adelman, Howard and John H. Simpson, eds. Multiculturalism, Jews and Identities in Canada. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1996.
  5. ^ Days of shame, Montreal, 1934 Peter Wilton, CMAJ Dec. 9, 2003 vol. 169 no. 12 p.1329
  6. ^ Doctor was central figure in 1934 hospital strike David Lazarus, Canadian Jewish News Nov. 25, 2010
  7. ^ "Anti-semitism incidents jump five-fold in Canada". 2010-04-11. Retrieved 2010-12-10. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Turner, James (01/2/2014). "Judge agrees lighter attack at a high school not racially motivated". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "2013 Audit of antisemitic incidents". B'nai Brith. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Antisemitic Incidents". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "Photo Galleries Racist, anti-Semitic graffiti found near Ottawa River". CBC News. Apr 19, 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Swastika was scrawled at the entrance to Kiryas Tosh". CFCA. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Anti-Israel demonstration". CFCA. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  15. ^ "Anti Israeli demonstration in Toronto 17-04-2014". YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Rosenfeld, Alvin H. (May 2013). Studies in Antisemitism : Resurgent Antisemitism : Global Perspectives. Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press. p. 62.  
  17. ^
  18. ^ DeRosa, Katie. "Racist graffiti scrawled at 7 locations in Victoria and Saanich". Times Colonist. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "PALESTINIAN EXTREMISM IN THE STREETS OF TORONTO". Sun. July 4, 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  20. ^ "woman with Israeli flag shoved to the ground at pro-Palestinian rally". CFCA. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  21. ^ "Jewish man punched in Snowdon believes it was a hate crime". CTV News. July 23, 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "Antisemitic graffiti found on bus shelter". CFCA. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  23. ^ "Antisemitic graffiti". CFCA. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  24. ^ Meiszner, Peter (September 19, 2014). "Richmond RCMP report Anti-Semitic graffiti in the city". Global News. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  25. ^ Shefa, Sheri (September 3, 2014). "Dog excrement smeared on Chabad synagogue". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  26. ^ Wajsman, Beryl (September 24, 2014). "The hatred within". The Suburban. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  • Davies, Alan T (1992), Antisemitism in Canada: history and interpretation, Wilfrid Laurier University Press,  

External links

  • Interview with Irwin CotlerVoices on Antisemitism from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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