Toronto police say they’re looking for nine young suspects as part of a hate crime investigation after two teens wearing kippahs were allegedly assaulted and a third reportedly was robbed.
Police said four 17-year-old boys, all of whom are Jewish and were wearing religious attire at the time of the incident, were walking in the area of Bathurst Street and Fairholme Avenue, just south of Lawrence Avenue West, at around 8 p.m. Sunday.
While they walking, investigators said a group of young people, who were described as being in their teens, made insulting comments about the boys’ religion.
Shortly after the comments were made, an unknown number of suspects allegedly began punching and kicking two of the boys. One of the victims allegedly had his glasses broken and stolen.
Police said the suspects split up and ran away as officers were called. Investigators said officers found and arrested one of the people involved in the assault. Police said the suspects weren’t known to the teens.
The victim who had his sunglasses stolen, who didn’t want to be identified, recently came to Canada from Santa Monica, California, to study. He said the suspects screamed anti-Semitic slurs and made references to Hitler. The boy also said one of the suspects was on top of him and got kneed in the face.
“I did not ever think that it couldn’t happen in a place like Canada, but I didn’t expect it to,” he said.
“My grandmother is a holocaust survivor. I’m a very proud Jew and my essence and what I am, and I don’t think anyone is ever going to put me down. Yes I was beaten up, but it doesn’t make a difference.”
The boy praised first responders and government officials on Monday, saying he felt supported after the attack.
After news of the incident broke, many condemned it through messages on social media.
“No one should ever be attacked for their religion. Please help @TorontoPolice solve this hate crime/robbery investigation that occurred Sunday night,” Toronto Mayor John Tory wrote on Twitter.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders appealed to the public for information.
“@TorontoPolice will not tolerate violence and harassment against anyone. Help us find the young people responsible for the attack against a group of teens from the Jewish community, on Sunday evening in the Bathurst & Fairholme area,” he wrote.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) released a statement in response to the assaults. It called for people in the neighbourhood with surveillance video to check their footage and contact police.
“Jewish Canadians should never fear wearing their Kippah in public. We are grateful to the Toronto Police Service for its rapid and professional response,” Noah Shack, CIJA vice president for the Greater Toronto Area, wrote.
Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 416-808-1300 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.