Dawson investigating after student accused of wearing antisemitic Halloween costume

Dawson College is investigating a Halloween costume worn by a student that was shared widely on an American social media account called “Stop Antisemitism.”

The video shows a student wearing a military uniform and gas mask, marching and making gestures that many associated as an antisemitic act.

“The student marched and made gestures associated with totalitarian regimes, provoking a strong reaction,” Dawson College said in a statement. “Many who witnessed the event experienced the gestures as an antisemitic act. Moments after what is seen on video, a staff member intervened. The student responded that they were dressed in a post-World War II East German military uniform. The student removed the gas mask as requested by a staff member.

“The College deeply regrets that this incident occurred and that a staff or bystander intervention did not occur fast enough to prevent it. Dawson recognizes the actions of this student threatened many students’ fundamental sense of safety.

“Following the investigation appropriate actions will be taken. Leaders and members of the Jewish Community, including students and staff, have been in touch with College leadership and we will be working with them to advance a respectful environment and repair the harm done by this incident.”

Student union apologizes to students

The Dawson Student Union confirmed the sequence of events shared by the CEGEP.

“The Dawson Student Union is aware of the feelings and impacts the situation triggered,” the DSU said in a statement. “The union supports the constitutional right of freedom, including the freedom to express themselves on any medium of communication; however, opposes the encouragement of hatred against any indefatigable individual or group based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and preference. Consequently, we seek to protect minorities and discourage hate speech.”

The student union is apologizing to the students “who felt triggered or were put in a delicate situation.”

It says the school will create guidelines for next year’s Halloween costumes.

Not a hate crime, says B’Nai Brith Canada

Marvin Rotrand, of B’Nai Brith Canada, says the video was sent to them and they received seven complaints from community members expressing concern and requesting the video be investigated.

Rotrand says while most people who saw the video assume it was a Nazi-type march, the student said it was not his intention, therefore for the integrity of their annual audit they will not be including the incident as a hate crime. He added they cannot clearly point to this being antisemitic as it was not a Nazi uniform, and there were no swastikas or hate symbols on the costume.

“We will continue to investigate and we will be in touch with Dawson for further information. We see the public reaction as a positive thing showing people have woken up to the huge increase we are seeing in antisemitic hate incidents,” Rotrand added.

B’Nai Brith recorded 2,799 antisemitic incidents in Canada in 2021. The highest since they began recording in 1982.

“We appreciate the public’s heightened awareness of antisemitism,” added Rotrand. “Both our numbers and that of Statistics Canada showed a record level of hate crimes and hate incidents aimed a Jews in 2021. The public is reacting to that by being more willing to call out antisemitism and to report incidents to us and to the police.”

Quebec recorded more antisemitic incidents than any other province. Antisemitic incidents recorded by B’Nai Brith in Quebec rose by 20.7 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

Jewish people make up about one per cent of the Canadian population but represented 56 per cent of victims of hate crimes targeting religious minorities.

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