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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rightly denounced the wave of antisemitism that has emerged in Canada since Hamas launched its brutal terror attacks on Oct. 7 and precipitated reprisals by Israel that have killed masses of civilians in Gaza.

Molotov cocktails were tossed at a Montreal synagogue and a Jewish community centre. There have been three incidents of someone shooting at (thankfully empty) Jewish schools in that city. And, as Mr. Trudeau noted last week, there have been “horrific threats of violence targeting Jewish businesses, targeting Jewish daycares with hate.”

The Prime Minister continued, “This needs to stop. This is not who we are as Canadians. This is something that is not acceptable in Canada, period.”

Mr. Trudeau is entirely correct to say that these despicable incidents must be stopped. There is a growing danger that someone, soon, will be badly hurt, or worse.

But there is one thing that the Prime Minister got wrong, when he said “this is not who we are as Canadians.” It is a sad fact that antisemitism exists in Canada, and that those who hate Jews are feeling emboldened to act out their hate as criticism grows over Israel’s actions in Gaza, and civilian casualties mount.

Mr. Trudeau (and other Canadians) may wish that were not so, that the bile directed against the Jewish community were somehow foreign to this country. But that hate is, unfortunately, part of Canada – though it must be resisted and rooted out. Recognizing the true nature of the problem is critical to understanding it, and then effectively addressing it.

The first step is to call out antisemitism forcefully, and specifically. Mr. Trudeau and other political leaders are, for the most part, doing so. Antisemitic incidents need to be denounced, not vaguely as acts of intolerance, but specifically as acts of hate intended to harm and intimidate Jewish Canadians.

The same principle applies, of course, to acts of hate against Muslim Canadians. Such incidents have also risen since Oct. 7, including the vandalism of an Ottawa mosque by a man who smeared feces on its door. It is undeniably true that both communities are being targeted since Hamas attacked Israel: Montreal police say there were 55 hate incidents in the following month, three-quarters aimed at Jewish Canadians and the remaining one-quarter at Muslim Canadians.

But condemnation of one does not need to be linked to the other. It is the Jewish community that is being targeted as somehow being an accomplice to Israel’s actions in Gaza. That is base racism. To simply say that does not in any way to endorse Islamophobia. And to condemn attacks against Muslim Canadians, specifically, does not in any way diminish antisemitism.

Denunciation is not enough, particularly as hate morphs into acts of violence. Police and provincial Crowns need to be clear that antisemitic incidents will be investigated aggressively and prosecuted fully, including the addition of hate motivation to any charge. Police owe it to Jewish Canadians (indeed, all Canadians) to lay charges, most particularly in the attacks on property in Montreal. Those are not minor crimes; they are meant to force Jewish Canadians to cower.

There is a line that authorities should not cross, however: infringing on the right to protest, even loudly, even vehemently. Some European countries have restricted protests. Canadian authorities should not follow suit.

Longer term, the decisions by British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta to expand education about the Holocaust for high-school students are welcome moves. Education is not a panacea, and it will not do much in the immediate crisis (particularly since many of those changes won’t take effect for nearly two years). But ensuring that the Holocaust does not fade from our collective memory is laudable.

Those are all measures for governments. But Canadians need to take individual action as well; the Jewish community cannot be left on its own to oppose hate.

Solidarity can take many forms. Tearing down posters of those held hostage by Hamas is a hateful act; do not let that happen unopposed. Go out of your way to solicit businesses that have been targeted for being Jewish-owned. Most of all, reach out to your fellow citizens to let them know that they are not alone.

That is who we want to be, who we must be, as Canadians.

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