There were reports of various incidents directed against religious groups, in particular anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents including physical violence, destruction of places of places of worship, vandalism, hate speech, violence, and harassment. On January 29, a gunman entered the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec and opened fire on worshippers, killing six men, critically injuring five, and wounding approximately 12 others. On January 30, police charged the gunman with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. On August 6, individuals set fire to a car owned by the head of the same Islamic Cultural Centre targeted in January. In September police arrested and charged two men with arson. In a separate incident, unidentified individuals flung excrement at the front door of the building. Unknown attackers also targeted the mosque several times in 2016, including an incident in which an unidentified vandal left a pig’s head on the building’s doorstep and distributed racist tracts in the mosque’s neighborhood. Police did not identify any suspects.
In November the national statistical agency released police data identifying Jews as the religious group most frequently targeted for hate crimes in 2016, followed by Catholics and Muslims. Jews were targets of 221 incidents, up from 178 in 2015. The number of hate crimes recorded by police against Catholics fell from 55 in 2015 to 27 in 2016 and from 159 incidents against Muslims in 2015 to 139 incidents in 2016.
According to an October poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, a public opinion research foundation, in partnership with faith-based think tank Cardus, 55 percent of respondents stated religious freedom made Canada a better country, while 44 percent said religious diversity had both positive and negative impacts on the country. Forty-six percent of respondents said Islam was damaging to the country, the highest negative score of all the faiths included in the survey, followed by Sikhism at 22 percent. Catholicism, evangelical Christianity, and Judaism had overall positive ratings. Quebec respondents were the most likely to identify increasing religious diversity as an adverse impact on the country, listed at 31 percent compared with 23 percent nationally.
In June Husky Energy agreed to investigate allegations by three Muslim women in Edmonton, Alberta, who stated that their employer, a contracting company affiliated with Husky Energy, dismissed them after they complained a non-Muslim coworker had told them to remove their hijabs. The three women filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which remained pending at the end of the year. Husky Energy announced in December it had completed a review of the incident and found the women’s employer, a subcontractor, was not related to the women’s complaint and occurred as part of a scheduled downsizing as the contractor’s maintenance contract with Husky Energy expired. Husky Energy dismissed the allegations as part of its internal investigation. Both Husky Energy and the contractor underscored their commitment to a diverse workforce and pledged to cooperate fully with the Human Rights Commission investigation.
In February a B.C. carpentry school rejected an application from a prospective Israeli student on the stated grounds of his nationality and “non-inclusive” policies pursued by the Israeli government. According to a press report, the school’s executive director subsequently issued a written apology to the student, reversed the school’s decision, and rescinded restrictions on admission of students from Israel.
On August 4, the mayor of Quebec City announced the municipality had conditionally accepted an offer from the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre to purchase city-owned land for an Islamic cemetery. The agreement followed a July 16 referendum in Saint-Apollinaire, a town near Quebec City, in which voters rejected the center’s bid to build an Islamic cemetery in the town. Although the Saint-Apollinaire city council had unanimously approved the center’s application, the cemetery required a zoning change, necessitating a referendum under Quebec law. Only residents living adjacent to the proposed site were eligible to vote, and of 49 eligible voters, 36 cast ballots. Debate spread beyond the community and engendered messages directed against the mosque. In July the mosque received a mailed package containing a defaced copy of the Quran and a note expressing hatred toward Muslims. Police opened a hate crime investigation but did not identify suspects. Prime Minister Trudeau condemned the incident as inconsistent with Quebec or Canadian values; he later praised the municipal government’s decision to sell the land for the cemetery.
The B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights said it received 1,728 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, a 26 percent increase from 2015. The greatest number of reports (490) came from Ontario. Reported incidents in 2016 included violence against persons (11 incidents); harassment (1,559 incidents); vandalism, including graffiti; and attacks on synagogues, private homes, community centers, and desecration of cemeteries (158 incidents).
Independent Arabic language newspaper Al Saraha, based in London, Ontario, agreed to publish a front-page apology for reprinting an article in its June-July 2016 edition. The article alleged Jews had inflated the number of Holocaust victims from 100,000-600,000 to six million and blamed them for Germany’s economic collapse in the 1920s. Al Saraha had reprinted the article from an Egyptian newspaper. The publication is distributed online and through Middle Eastern restaurants and grocery stores throughout the greater London, Ontario area.
In February Ryerson University in Toronto fired teaching assistant Imam Ayman Elkasrawy for reportedly calling for purification of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from the “filth of the Jews” in a 2016 off-campus sermon.
In December, eight synagogues in Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, and Edmonton received identical letters depicting a swastika inside a bleeding Star of David with the phrase “Jewry Must Perish,” in what appeared to be a coordinated mailing that coincided with Hanukkah. Police in all four cities opened hate crime investigations. Police in north Toronto, where one of the targeted synagogues was located, said his detachment would pay additional attention to synagogues and Jewish facilities in the area.
In February unknown individuals posted notes with the words “No Jews” placed above a swastika on the doors of a condominium building in North York, Ontario. Authorities did not identify any suspects.
In September a woman interrupted an event in support of then federal New Democratic Party leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh, by heckling and accusing him of supporting sharia and the Muslim Brotherhood organization. Singh won his party’s leadership, and some observers credited, in part, what they said was his deft handling of the interaction with the heckler for boosting his popularity.
In August police in Markham, Ontario, investigated incidents of anti-Semitic and race-related graffiti at three schools. Police treated the cases as related hate crimes; however, they did not identify any suspects.
On August 31, an Ontario judge sentenced an 18-year-old male to a year in custody, including time served, plus two years’ probation for vandalizing six religious buildings in Ottawa in 2016. The vandalism included anti-Semitic graffiti on a Jewish school, synagogue, and rabbi’s home.
Authorities did not identify any suspects following an April 2016 incident in which vandals wrote the words “Muslim terrorists” over a picture of a Muslim woman wearing a niqab at a library exhibit on the lives of Muslims in Quebec.
Numerous interfaith and ecumenical organizations at the national, provincial, and local levels continued to operate, with the stated purposed of fostering respect for religious diversity, tolerance, and equal treatment for all religious groups. The groups included participation by the Canadian Council of Churches, the United Church of Canada, the Roman Catholic Church, The Salvation Army, other Protestant communities, as well as Jewish and Muslim associations.