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Toronto leaders call on feds to investigate suspected hate-motivated arson as possible act of terror

Click to play video: 'Toronto leaders call on feds to investigate arson at Jewish-owned grocery store as possible act of terror'
Toronto leaders call on feds to investigate arson at Jewish-owned grocery store as possible act of terror
WATCH: After a Jewish-owned grocery store in North York was set on fire and vandalized in a suspected hate crime last week, a Toronto deputy mayor and city councillor are calling on the federal government to investigate the incident as a possible act of terrorism. Kayla McLean has the story. – Jan 8, 2024

Toronto leaders are calling on the federal government to investigate a suspected arson and vandalism at a Jewish-owned grocery store in North York as a possible act of terror.

On Monday, deputy mayor for north Toronto Mike Colle spoke to reporters outside International Delicatessen Foods, the site where the suspicious fire took place last week, and said the incident “crossed the line.”

“This is more than just an arson. This was a targeted act of intimidation against this shopkeeper because he’s Jewish,” Colle said.

Colle and James Pasternak, city councillor for York Centre, are now urging the federal minister of justice and the attorney general to investigate this attack.

“In order to prevent a dangerous escalation in hate-related incidents across the City of Toronto, it is critical that the federal government take this criminal act seriously and to investigate it as a possible act of terror,” Colle said in a statement.

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The leaders also said provincial and federal governments need to “step up” and help local police and the City of Toronto as they deal with these incidents in “anyway that they can.”

“Our federal and provincial leaders need to immediately address these hate-motivated actions with additional legislative change to ensure local law enforcement has the tools available to investigate and act,” reads the statement.

Late last year, both the provincial and federal governments announced they would be putting forward funding to help support communities impacted by hate.

The Ontario government said it’s offering more than $20 million to address hate-motivated incidents in the province, with a focus on helping Muslim and Jewish communities.

The provincial government said grants of up to $20,000 are being offered and can be used to hire security staff, install surveillance cameras and make repairs to buildings. The money can also be used for cyber security and to help clean up after incidents of vandalism.

Moreover, the federal government announced the expansion of its Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), and said it is putting forward a total of $10 million to help Canadian communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes “protect and strengthen the security of their community centres, places of worship and other institutions.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, vice president of the GTA Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said she is grateful for “deputy mayor Colle and councillor Pasternack for continuing to stand with the Jewish community.”

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“We have full confidence in the police to follow the evidence and take their investigation in whatever direction it needs to go so that the perpetrator is held accountable. If the evidence shows this was indeed an act of terror, we expect the police and justice system to treat it as such – the priority is to see the perpetrator caught by police and brought to justice,” Kirzner-Roberts said in a statement.

“We hope to see more politicians from every level of government condemn and enforce the law to prevent these acts of hate from continuing.”

Global News. Global News

Officers and fire crews were called to the north Toronto grocery store around 6 a.m. on Jan. 3 and discovered a fire inside the building and the words “Free Palestine” written on the building’s exterior.

While no arrests have been made, Staff Supt. Pauline Gray previously said the Toronto Police Service will use all of the force’s resources available to “investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for this.”

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Gray said this incident was a “tipping point.”

“This is not graffiti on a bus shelter. This is not lawful protests protected by constitutional right. This is a criminal act. It is violent, it is targeted, it is organized and it will receive the weight of the Toronto Police Service to do exactly what it deserves,” Gray said.

This incident came after Toronto police reported there’s been a spike in hate crimes since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with a little over half of those reported to be antisemitic.

Police say between Oct. 7 and Dec. 17, 2023, there were 98 reported hate crimes in Toronto, compared with 48 over the same period in 2022.

That included 56 reported antisemitic incidents, compared with 18 over the same period last year. It also accounts for 20 reported incidents targeting Muslims, Arabs or Palestinians — compared with just two over the same period in 2022.

Click to play video: 'Police investigate suspected hate-motivated arson at Jewish-owned deli'
Police investigate suspected hate-motivated arson at Jewish-owned deli

— with files from Global News’ Issac Callan and The Canadian Press.

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