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‘Silence is where the danger is’: B.C. mayor speaks out against antisemitism

Jews are the religious group in Canada most likely to be targeted for hate crimes: Statistics Canada
In 2021, after staff at the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life and Learning discovered antisemitic graffiti, notes of love appeared instead. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch knows he walks a fine line between calling out bad behaviour and amplifying hateful messages.

Hearing disturbing reports of online targeting of Jewish-owned businesses in Oak Bay and Greater Victoria, he’s choosing to speak out.

“This is something that – when it’s not called out when you see it – it emboldens people’s bad behaviour,” Murdoch told the Oak Bay News. “The silence is where the danger is.”

He’s heard of multiple instances of antisemitic messaging in Greater Victoria and knows at least one Jewish-owned business is facing hate email and targeted negative online reviews.

“It’s not large amounts but I just think we’re better than this,” Murdoch said. “I need to say something, I think being silent is dangerous.”

READ ALSO: Suspect identified in anti-Semitic graffiti incident at Victoria Jewish centre

So he spoke up – quite publicly.

“I find it very sad how prevalent hate continues to be in our society; old prejudices always seem to crop up in times of conflict … and can grow when leaders give room for that division. It is a tool of authoritarian regimes the world over. We must all speak up early and loudly to reject such behaviour. There is no place for bigotry in Oak Bay, the CRD, or Canada,” he said on social media.

Business owners are also torn, he said, between illuminating the issue and drawing attention to their family or business and risk becoming a target.

“I can say something,” Murdoch said. “It’s incumbent on the majority to stand up and say we won’t accept that. I do believe our society is much better than that.”

READ ALSO: Jewish Canadians to celebrate Hanukkah publicly, even as antisemitism rises

Despite representing less than one per cent of the Canadian population, Jews are the religious group in Canada most likely to be targeted for hate crimes, according to Statistics Canada.

The number of police-reported hate crimes targeting a given religion rose from 530 in 2020 to 884 in 2021, representing a 67-per-cent increase, StatsCan data show. It marked the highest number of hate crimes targeting a religion since comparable data have been recorded and followed three consecutive years of decreases. Police-reported hate crimes targeting the Jewish (up 47 per cent), Muslim (up 71 per cent) and Catholic (up 260 per cent) religions were up in 2021 compared with the previous year.

Murdoch is confident a small group holds the level of anger and hatred he’s talking about. He’s also adamant no minority group should feel unsafe or unwelcome “no matter where they were born.”

With International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaching on Jan. 27, 2024, he calls on the wider community to live by the motto best associated with Second World War genocide – “never again.”

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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