Toronto’s mayor is appealing for calm and calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict Friday as Toronto police’s hate crime unit investigates a vandalism incident at a downtown Indigo store.
This comes after weeks of protests in the city’s streets, alongside a rise in tensions on university and college campuses, amid the ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Many GTA rallies have called for a ceasefire to stop the climbing death toll — a sentiment Mayor Olivia Chow shared in a statement Friday. You can read Chow’s full statement at the bottom of this story.
“All my life I have been an advocate for peace. I will always choose hope and compassion. I believe that violence is never the answer,” Chow said.
“I believe that peace can only come through the immediate and unconditional return of all hostages and a ceasefire, as has been called for by humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations.”
Chow also lauded Toronto’s diversity as a common bond, but noted many people in the city are struggling right now.
“In talking with Muslim and Jewish communities over recent weeks, I’ve heard their worries and their fears. I’ve heard how deeply people are grieving and how unsafe they feel right now,” she said.
Police investigate vandalism
In that vein, Toronto police confirmed to CBC News Friday that investigators are aware of vandalism at an Indigo bookstore near the intersection of Bay and Bloor Streets, and the force’s hate crime unit is investigating.
Images circulating on social media Friday showed red paint splashed on the front of the business, as well as posters that the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) said amount to “hateful targeting of its Jewish CEO,” Heather Reisman.
“It is absolutely appalling to see this targeting of an Indigo store and its Jewish founder and CEO in a vile antisemitic attack,” said FSWC president and CEO Michael Levitt in a statement. “The fact that it occurred on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when thousands of Jewish businesses were vandalized and destroyed in a Nazi-led pogrom in Germany and Austria just before the Holocaust, makes it even more painful to witness.
“Sadly, this is the tragic, new reality for Jews today in Canada and around the world which requires more than just condemnations from government leaders.”
Here’s Chow’s full statement:
For over a month, the world has been watching the unfolding situation in Israel and Gaza in shock and horror at the growing number of lives lost and lives torn apart.
What the terrorist organization Hamas did on Oct. 7 was horrific and there’s no justification for it. The continued bombing of Palestinians in Gaza is unbearable. No one should live under constant threat of violence, or be denied the necessities of life.
And yet, so many Palestinian and Israeli civilians have lost their lives or been taken captive: women, journalists, doctors – the toll on children has been especially heartbreaking. Israelis deserve to be safe. Palestinians deserve to be safe.
Toronto is a global city. When we are confronted with horrific global events we are all shaken. We are left to make a defining choice between hate or hope.
Time and time again Toronto has chosen hope. It has defined our city as a beacon in difficult times. Our diversity, our empathy and the harmony in which we live is unique in the world. It must be protected. It is our common bond.
Our ability as a city to meet deep differences with compassion and hope, to gather and rally democratically in the spirit of community and peace, is always the best of us at work.
But, our city isn’t perfect. In hard times our common bond is often tested. The fact remains antisemitism and Islamophobia exist here. People are scared of being targeted for who they are or what they believe in.
As your mayor, let me be clear: any assault on the freedom of people practicing their faith or religion is not welcome here. Threatening the safety of businesses is not welcome here. Violence, in all its forms, is not welcome here. Hate is not welcome here.
Five days after the Hamas atrocities, we passed an urgent motion – Keeping Toronto Safe from Hate – in which we specifically included antisemitism and Islamophobia in our definition of hate. We also launched toronto.ca/stophate as an important resource for Torontonians, and we continue to work collaboratively with Toronto police to keep people safe. Every councillor voted in favour of the motion. Hate is not welcome here.
In talking with Muslim and Jewish communities over recent weeks, I’ve heard their worries and their fears. I’ve heard how deeply people are grieving and how unsafe they feel right now. I’ve also heard about common hopes and dreams.
Stories of people comforting a sleepless neighbour, sharing their worry for a loved one back home, or meals cooked for friends to nourish them in their worry. These quiet, hopeful moments are a shared dream of peace, made real in our city every day.
All my life I have been an advocate for peace. I will always choose hope and compassion. I believe that violence is never the answer. I believe that peace can only come through the immediate and unconditional return of all hostages and a ceasefire, as has been called for by humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations.
When violence and darkness surround us, we must continue to be a welcoming, kind and compassionate city. That is my responsibility as mayor and our common cause.
I know that together we can make real the promise that defines Toronto. Diversity, our strength.
We must keep hearing each other, keep the courage of our compassion and never lose sight of our common humanity. Together, we can keep Toronto’s global beacon of hope burning bright for all of us. Burning bright, not with heat, but with light.