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Alberta boosting security funding at Islamic and Jewish faith-based schools

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Alberta boosting security funding to increase safety at Islamic and Jewish faith-based schools
WATCH: Due to rising antisemitism and Islamophobia, the Alberta government is increasing funding for security infrastructure and officer presence at Islamic and Jewish faith-based schools to improve safety. Jasmine King has more. – Dec 7, 2023

The provincial government is taking steps to reduce the threat of hate-motivated violence at schools across Alberta. This comes after increased incidents since the conflict between Israel and Hamas started in the Middle East two months ago.

The Alberta government said the province doesn’t have any room for racism and violence and is taking proactive steps.

“We’re not going to let people live in fear here,” Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis said on Thursday. “Action driven by hatred is cowardly and unacceptable and Alberta’s government has zero tolerance for these actions.”

The province is expanding the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program (ASIP) grant to include Jewish and Islamic faith-based schools for up to 12 months. The goal is to allow more students and educators to feel safe in their own classrooms.

Click to play video: 'Anti-Muslim hate crime investigations ongoing in Edmonton'
Anti-Muslim hate crime investigations ongoing in Edmonton

“Islamic and Jewish faith-based schools will now have access to temporary funding for security enhancements that will offer peace of mind,” Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said.

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“Every student in Alberta should feel absolutely safe and secure when they walk through the doors of their school.”

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This comes after rises of violence in other parts of the country since Oct. 7 — the day the fighting between Hamas and Israel began.

Click to play video: 'Montreal-area synagogue target of firebomb attack'
Montreal-area synagogue target of firebomb attack

The Jewish Federation of Edmonton says the violence has led to heightened tensions here.

“We are seeing an increase in hate and antisemitism, online in particular, especially against our teenage students. At the day schools it’s really an abundance of caution, of what we’re seeing across the country and the fear that that’s generating out here as well ” said Stacey Leavitt-Wright CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.

For two months, the number of calls the federation receives regarding these incidents has spiked. While there haven’t been any direct threats to any Edmonton schools, Leavitt-Wright says parents should feel confident sending their kids to learn.

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“It’s been a big issue for our community a lot of concern. There has been some minor events that have taken place around the community so we’re pleased to see that action being taken,” said Leavitt-Wright.

Click to play video: 'Hate crime unit investigating incident at Calgary Jewish Centre'
Hate crime unit investigating incident at Calgary Jewish Centre

Eligible faith-based schools needing short-term physical security on campus will be able to apply for up to $20,000 in funding.

Alberta Sheriffs will also be available upon request, when asked by local police to support, to monitor religious and cultural infrastructure. This includes synagogues, mosques and community centres to prevent hate-motivated vandalism and harassment.

“The Alberta Sheriffs are an integral part of our province’s law enforcement continuum and look forward to working with local police to ensure the safety of all Albertans at our educational institutions and places of worship,” said Bob Andrews, Alberta Sheriffs acting chief.

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This is welcome news to the Edmonton Islamic Academy, which says both students and their relatives have faced threats.

“Our community is going through a very difficult time as we face an increase of hate incidents towards Muslims here in Alberta and we fully support the need to expand the ASIP program,” said Abraham Abougouche, principal of the Edmonton Islamic Academy.

“At times our families, our staff have expressed concern with the increase of hate-incited incidents as a school our resources to provide security have limitations. This grant will assist us in supporting our security demands.”

ASIP funding currently supports eligible charities, places of worship and non-profit organizations. The grant has been active in the province since 2021 supporting diverse communities and groups at risk of hate-motivated violence with financial aid to address security needs.

In 2022-23, Alberta’s government increased funding for ASIP to a total of $5 million annually. To date, ASIP has distributed 231 individual grants totalling more than $2.4 million.

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