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Police investigating swastika, racist slur painted on Jewish community leader’s Ottawa home

An Ottawa rabbi's front door is spraypainted with a swatika and racist slur.
An Ottawa rabbi's front door is spraypainted with a swatika and racist slur. Facebook

It was early morning, still pitch black outside, when Rabbi Anna Maranta first saw it — a bright red swastika and a racist slur spray painted on the window of her front door.

Her home sits less than a block away from one of Ottawa’s main streets, but Maranta describes her neighbourhood as a quiet one. 

“It was definitely not there when I went to bed,” she told Global News on Tuesday, a few hours after she said she first discovered the message. “I always leave my porch light on. So somebody was pretty brazen to come up on someone’s porch, stand under a light and do this.”

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A longtime social activist, Maranta said she’s been the target of racist messages and cries before. 

“But there’s never been anything like this,” she said.

News of the vandalism spread after Maranta shared a message and image on Facebook of the front door to her home, where she also leads religious ceremonies, celebrations and study groups.

“This. This is what has been unleashed by the American president-elect and those that support him,” the rabbi wrote.

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There is nothing in the message written on her door connecting the incident to President-elect Donald Trump. Following his win in last week’s U.S. election, however, American media have reported increases in racist threats and vandalism.

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“I believe, at least in part, that this incident is sparked by the unfiltered, racist speech we heard so much of during the [American] election campaign,” she said.

“When you can campaign and speak so openly about targeting certain groups, it might open up the door for someone who wouldn’t otherwise have done this.”

In her Facebook post, Maranta wrote the vandalism occurred at some point between 11 Monday night and 2:45 Tuesday morning.

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Maranta urged anyone with information to either contact her directly or the Ottawa police hate crimes unit.

Police have opened an investigation into the event, Cnst. Chuck Benoit said Tuesday.

“There is a concern at this time because of the sign that was painted,” he said, noting all incoming complaints to the police are investigated.

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Benoit explained once a complaint is lodged and an investigation opened, there are several steps investigators have to take before determining whether a hate crime occurred.

The vandalism on her front door is just the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Ottawa and Montreal, according to B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy group.

A Jewish bakery on one of Montreal’s busiest streets had a swastika on it Monday morning, not 24 hours before Maranta saw the graffiti on her home, according to a post on the group’s website. 

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Across the country, more and more anti-Semitic incidents occur almost every year, Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

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There was a decrease to 1,277 incidents in 2015 from 1,627 in 2104, but the spike in 2014 was a “bit of an anomaly,” she explained. 

That said, Hohmann said she believes 2016 is on track to be a record year, perhaps even surpassing the 2014 numbers. 

“We’re seeing a rise of white nationalism globally,” she said, adding the rise in Canada is along the same lines as in Europe. “These attacks are a symptom of the movement gaining ground and acceptance around the world.”

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Canadian “hot spots” for anti-Semitic harassment, violence and vandalism, according to Hohmann, are Toronto, Montreal and, increasingly, Calgary.

Hohmann said Jews are not the only people in Canada who experience targeted harassment — but there is not another group that experiences it at the same rate.

“Jews are the single-most targeted victim group for hate crimes in Canada,” she said. “Anywhere there are Jews, there’s anti-Semitism.”

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