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Fire tape blows in the wind outside IDF Deli in Toronto on Jan. 4.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

One of Toronto’s deputy mayors says the suspected hate-motivated arson and vandalism of a Jewish-owned grocery store should serve as a wake-up call about a spike in antisemitism in the city.

Mike Colle, speaking with The Canadian Press, says the suspected arson strikes at the fears of the city’s Jewish community and reflects the human cost of “appalling” hate-motivated violence.

The deputy mayor for north Toronto says he met with the owner of International Delicatessen Foods who told the councillor he was concerned for his family’s safety and worried it could be months before the business reopens.

In a statement, Mayor Olivia Chow said these types of incidents leave people feeling shaken and “diminish our sense of safety and belonging.”

No arrests have been made after officers were called to the north Toronto grocery store fire on Wednesday morning to find the words “Free Palestine” written on the building.

Police have warned of a spike in hate crimes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, with a little over half of those reported to be antisemitic.

Police say between Oct. 7 and Dec. 17 there were 98 reported hate crimes in Toronto, compared to 48 over the same period in 2022. That included 56 reported antisemitic incidents, compared to 18 over the same period last year. It also accounts for 20 reported incidents targeting Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians – compared to just two over the same period in 2022.

Chief Myron Demkiw addressed the suspected arson at an unrelated news conference Thursday, calling it an organized criminal act that inflicted “great harms in our communities.”

“No stone will be left unturned in this investigation as we seek to bring those responsible to justice,” he said.

Colle, the city councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence, also decried demonstrators who appear to protest in his ward because of its significant Jewish population.

Police have closed the Avenue Road bridge over Highway 401 on three recent occasions, citing demonstrations.

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