More than 80 Canadian business leaders have signed a joint letter asking federal, provincial and municipal governments to ramp up safety efforts for citizens in response to the rise of antisemitism and other forms of hate over the past several weeks.
The letter, which was e-mailed to officials in all levels of government on Friday, addresses a growing concern for particular communities that are experiencing antisemitism and Islamophobia in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the Israel-Hamas war.
“No person, regardless of their background or beliefs, should ever feel threatened in the place they call home,” the joint letter said. ”Every Jew, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and every individual living in Canada deserves unwavering assurance that our leaders and institutions will protect them from bigotry and violence.”
The list of signatories include Indigo chief executive officer Heather Reisman, Canada Goose CEO Dani Reiss, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP chair Walied Soliman, The Hospital for Sick Children chair Kathleen Taylor, Onex CEO Gerry Schwartz and John Ruffolo, founder of Maverix Private Equity.
The support from individual business leaders speaking out about hate crimes follows a series of attacks and protests that have occurred in major cities across Canada, including protesters targeting a Jewish-owned café in Toronto, and vandalism at an Ottawa-based mosque.
“I am proud to be amongst the many leaders who are calling on all levels of government to forcefully act on the unacceptable behaviour amongst a small, vocal group that are calling for violence targeted at Jews and others,” signatory Janet Bannister, managing partner of Staircase Ventures, said in an interview to The Globe and Mail.
“There is no place in Canada for this behaviour and we must stand strongly together and act now in order to protect the Canadian values that we hold so dear,” she added.
While many large corporations have been donating millions in humanitarian aid for victims of the conflict overseas, the letter is addressing violence on Canadian soil.
“The statement we are making is about Canada,” said Mr. Ruffolo in an e-mail to The Globe. “One of Canada’s values is our acceptance of people from all places around the globe. We are free to voice our views and concerns from conflicts around the world. But it comes with limits.
“We as Canadians must draw the line when such expressions become hate, slander, fear of intimidation, or violence. This is not our Canada.”
Business leaders are asking all governments to increase the level of security within communities that are at risk for hate crimes, and for Ottawa to re-evaluate the federal-government-funded Security Infrastructure Program (SIP) to consider the use of security guards.
As well, the letter is asking Ottawa to conduct an emergency review of the strategies that were recommended in June, 2022, by Parliament’s standing committee on public safety and national security, in countering ideologically motivated violent extremism, including hate crimes.
The federal government responded to the recommendations last fall, but business leaders are asking whether those recommendations are sufficient in this current environment.
Last week, Stephen Brown, chief executive of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, released a statement that anti-Muslim hate in the country had spiked since the events in Israel and the Gaza Strip unfolded earlier this month, most recently in Ottawa.
“We urge the Ottawa Police Service to continue investigating this as a potentially hate-motivated crime,” Mr. Brown said in a press release. “We have yet to see an organized and concerted effort from our elected officials to formulate a real plan to push back against this utterly appalling rise in anti-Muslim hate.”
Noah Shack, vice-president of countering antisemitism and hate for the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, is also concerned with the recent spike in antisemitism occurring in major cities across Canada. He says that as protests have been spilling over into “hateful intimidation,” law enforcement need to ensure that they have the proper training and capability to recognize when a hate-motivated offence takes place.
“We have laws on the books and it’s important that law enforcement has the capacity and the resources to be able to enforce those laws,” Mr. Shack said in an interview.
“This isn’t just about the Jewish community. It’s about the well-being of our society as a whole. If we allow the hate to fester, it will grow and it will just tear apart the fabric of our society.”