Crisis in Toronto: An Open Letter to Attorney General
The Hon. Doug Downey
Attorney General of Ontario
Ministry of the Attorney General
McMurtry-Scott Building 720 Bay Street, 11th floor Toronto, Ontario M7A 2S9
23 May 2021
Dear Minister Downey;
I trust this finds you well. We have met before in your office and at community gatherings in our mutual effort to advance our province in the cause of human rights.
As someone who is dedicated to the promotion of tolerance, justice and human rights in our province and our country, I am sincerely concerned about the rising levels of antisemitism and hate speech in our province. More significantly, there is recorded evidence of what appear to be Hamas flags carried by presumably sympathizers of the terror group.
Over the years, I have worked with the Ministry of the Attorney General and police services, to root out a signifiant sphere of antisemitism and hate crime. It's always been seriously addressed by all levels of government and law enforcement. Our hate crime laws are stringent, however they are very clear about incitement, hate speech and promotion of genocide in public.
As a community that has been historically persecuted, it strongly believes in the freedoms our cherished country provides - freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to protest. These are natural and productive attributes of any democracy and civil society and they must be respected and maintained.
However, it's under these circumstances that our political leaders especially must step up and enforce the law and seek all remedies to prevent the threat to our public safety and security. The Jewish community remains the most targeted community, according to Statistic Canada's annual report.
By now, you are undoubtedly aware that a violent assault took place against an elderly Jewish man at last week's pro-Palestinian protest on May 15, 2021. Bottles and rocks were also thrown at Jewish protestors and then mobs chased them into the street violently attacking them. We are calling on charges to be laid against them.
Then yesterday, on May 22, 2021 - a pro-Palestinian demonstration featured both antisemitic hate speech and Hamas flags. As you are aware, Canada designates Hamas a terrorist organization. Members of our community at large have gathered both photographs and video evidence of these legal infractions. They can be shared with your office.
More significantly, because the Jewish community at large feels vulnerable against the backdrop of these hostilities and incidents in Jewish neighbourhoods (including pro-Palestinian caravans) throughout our streets and neighbourhoods, I believe its time for the Ministry of the Attorney General; the Premier's Office and the Mayor of Toronto to issue an immediate injunction against any further rallies of this nature.
As a sign of growing concern for our safety and security, community members are taking initiative by creating security patrols in their neighbourhoods. What they need to hear from authorities is that arrests are being made. This has not happened to date, to my knowledge.
Moreover the City of Toronto is further able to withdraw any permits provided for public rallies and or designate such rallies a public safety concern.
These are unprecedented times. Toronto Police Chief James Ramer and the police service - including our hate crime unit - has been incredibly supportive. Police presence has increased with more resources to support public safety. I commend our provincial police services for this and stand by them. At the same time, your support in this area would be greatly appreciated.
Given yesterday's hostilities and danger posed to the Jewish community, I implore you to take action with an injunction, before the situation further deteriorates. Throughout this ordeal, my objective has been to help tone down the tension and ensure the safety and security of our citizens. As always, I am at your service and to the province of Ontario and Canada.
Avi Abraham Benlolo, BA MA, Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)
Order of Vaughan, Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal, Race Relations Award
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Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti: David.Lametti@parl.gc.ca
ABOUT: Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities, was founding President and CEO of a major organization in the Jewish community, has raised over $150 million for charities and is a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.