In Response to Winnipeg Hate Crime of December 31, 2016

Re: Anti-Semitic Message Shocks Homeowner (WFP January 4, 2017)

The December 31 hate crime which targeted a Jewish family in Wolseley, warning them to move out or die, referenced Nazi imagery and hateful language associated with the extermination of 6 million Jews in the Shoah (“Jude Bitch get out of our neighberhood" (sic), "einsatzgruppen” and of course the use of the swastika) to send its message of hate, to threaten and to instill fear. The ugly incident in Wolseley is perhaps indicative of what has been happening all over the United States and Canada – certain limits are being transgressed. In the wake of the American election and the rise of the white supremacist alt-right movement, references to Nazi imagery have proliferated, and the Wolseley hate crime is an example among many others in recent weeks, such as the defacement of a sign in front of Hebrew Union College Seminary, Cincinnati with a swastika or a Hanukkah menorah outside an Arizona home which was vandalized overnight and twisted into the shape of a swastika. In Whitefish, Montana, neo-Nazis have threatened an “armed march on the Jews” on Martin Luther King Day (January 16), in an action targeting ”Jews, Jewish business, and everyone who supports either.”

Neo-Nazism and white supremacy are not new ideologies that have suddenly emerged—neither in Canada, nor in the United States. Ernst Zundel is well-known to Canadians as a neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier, but as early as the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups made inroads into Canada. These groups never really disappear; they simply ebb and flow as events and the political climate allow. In the aftermath of the US election, in both US and Canada, expressions of antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate crimes against blacks, (primarily in the US) are on the uptick.

We must be vigilant against this trend and stand together in rejecting this kind of ugliness—and I’m proud to say that in Winnipeg, that is exactly what we are doing. If there is anything positive to learn (if one can even use the word “positive” when referring to a hate crime) when reflecting on this latest act: it made the front page. That in itself is a sign of our times—it signifies how deeply affected we are by this sort of ugliness. We care. We are neither apathetic nor jaded. We remain shocked by such acts of hate. As well, we support each other. Within hours, messages poured in from members of other faith communities offering support. And that is the way things go in our city whenever one of us is attacked—we stand together. Things have changed very much from the dark days of the 1930s when “none was too many."  

We appreciate the efforts of the Winnipeg Police Service as they investigate this hate crime that has shaken a family, a community, a neighborhood and a city, and we hope that the family who was targeted will be comforted by the response of the countless individuals who care.

Belle Jarniewski, President, Manitoba Multifaith Council