Volume 93, Issue 74

Thursday, February 10, 2000


NEWS

City questions anti-Semitic behaviour

Controversial photo gets pulled

Women still reaching for the top

Study finds home can make a good hospital

Hydro deregulation to push the industry

Newspaper challenges YOA

Briefs

Stuff

Caught on campus

City questions anti-Semitic behaviour



By John Intini
Gazette Staff

London's mayor, police chief and a high level Jewish official have refuted a claim made earlier this week that anti-Semitic behaviour has become a serious problem in London.

On Tuesday, the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada released a study which reported acts of anti-Semitism had increased by 11 per cent across the country last year compared to 1998, said the league's research and communications officer, Amelia Golden. The league is a watchdog for the Jewish community and conducts the audit each year, she said.

The league defined an anti-Semitic incident as the occurrence of actions ranging from hate mail to physical assaults, she said. This year's data showed a small percentage decrease in incidents in the Toronto area, but a substantial increase in regional occurrences, which Golden said included all areas outside of large urban centres such as Toronto and Ottawa. The report described London as a centre of organized hate activity, however, she said this point had been misinterpreted by the media and the public.

"We're not saying things are running rampant," she said, but added reported incidents of anti-Jewish behaviour have increased in the Forest City area.

In 1999, Golden said two anti-Semitic organizations were reported to be stationed in London and two instances were reported of people carving swastikas in the lawn of a London synagogue.

London mayor Dianne Haskett said she was initially shocked by the categorization of the Forest City as a hot-bed of anti-Semitism.

"There have been no incidents that have been drawn to my attention in the last year," she said, adding after speaking to a spokesperson from the league, she now understands they didn't mean to single out London.

Haskett said she asked the league to work with her in the future by keeping her informed of any complaints, so London could keep the reputation of a welcoming community which residents have come to expect.

Bernie Farber, executive director of the Ontario Region of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said although he had concerns over some of the activity in London, he questioned the accuracy of the data. "London has had some incidents, but so have all small or large cities," he said, adding London's city council and police department should be commended for the way they have handled any problems which have arisen.

Farber added it is also important to remember the study is simply an audit. "[It's] a useful tool, but that is all it is – a tool," he said, adding proper documentation was needed to get the full picture and only the police and council had all the information necessary to fairly assess behaviour.

London police chief Al Gramolini said he acknowledged there are fringe elements in the London community, but said there is nothing for Londoners to worry about. "Our community is safe," he said.


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