A meeting to discuss firearms training as a response to the deadly Oct. 27 synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh has alarmed anti-racist groups, which want police to monitor the situation.
On Facebook, the Toronto chapter of the Jewish Defence League said the “emergency meeting” on “legal firearms training” would take place Monday.
“Jews were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue attack. Please attend the Jewish Defence League action meeting to discuss the threat of anti-Semitic gangs and JDL positive counter activities,” the post read.
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Calling the JDL an “anti-Muslim group on the extreme fringe of the Jewish community,” the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations said they had alerted police.
“The Jewish Defence League is not the kind of group you want arming itself,” said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which tracks far-right groups.
As of Thursday night, less than a dozen people had indicated on Facebook they would attend.
“However, considering that Canadian members of the JDL have been charged with hate crimes towards Muslims, we expect police in Toronto to be paying close attention to this,” said Mohammed Hashim of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
Meaghan Gray, a Toronto Police Service spokeswoman, said police were aware of the event. “Current federal legislation in relation to firearms is clear and we would expect organizers to plan their event accordingly.”
The killing of 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue by a gunman who allegedly said he wanted to “kill Jews,” has raised fears in Canada’s Jewish community at a time of increasing anti-Semitism.
But Balgord said the answer wasn’t for a “fringe group” to arm itself. “To make these attacks less likely, we have to stop hate propaganda at its source,” he said.
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JDL-Canada leader Meir Weinstein said Monday’s event was just a discussion and that training would take place at a later date. He said those interested in receiving firearms training would be screened.
“The community can’t be defenceless,” he said.
He said there would not be armed patrols and that police were best suited to the task of protecting Jewish institutions, but that he wanted to “change the mindset in the community from one of passive bystanders to a community that’s more engaged and more alert to the threat.”
In the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Centre describes the JDL as a “radical organization” that has “orchestrated countless terrorist attacks” and harassed Muslims, Jewish scholars and community leaders.
The Canadian anti-racist groups said the JDL had supported anti-Muslim demonstrations with neo-Nazi ties in Toronto and Ottawa and had appeared alongside groups such as the Soldiers of Odin.
Weinstein said the JDL had protested the federal government’s anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, alongside other groups and individuals but did not collaborate with them and had distanced itself from some of them.