The Montreal police force (SPVM) is investigating after two Jewish schools in Montreal were hit with gunshots overnight.
The SPVM says they received a 911 call at 8:20 a.m. regarding gunshot impacts found on the front door of a Jewish school located on Saint-Kevin Ave. in Côte-des-Neiges. Bullet casings were also located.
Authorities believe the gunshots were fired overnight. No one was in the building at the time of the shooting and no one was injured.
Shortly after at 8:50 a.m. a 911 call was made about gunshot impacts found on the front door of another Jewish school nearby on Chemin Deacon in Outremont.
In this case police also believe the shots were fired overnight. No one was in the building at the time of the shooting and no one was injured.
SPVM officers were on the scene at both schools as the investigation is ongoing.
“We’ve looked around the school to see if any messages were done or graffiti. So we didn’t locate anything. We’re not closing any doors at this point on a hate crime situation,” said Jean-Pierre Brabant, a spokesperson for Montreal police (SPVM), adding, “we’re going to gather the information at this point. And if we have information pointing to a hate crime investigator, we’ll get involved and we’re going to look into it for sure.”
“This morning we woke up to the fact that two of our Jewish schools, institutions in which we trust to send our Jewish kids, were shot overnight. Now we have to deal with a different reality. The Jewish community with close to 300 years of history in Quebec is under attack,” said Yair Szlak, President and Chief Executive Officer at Federation CJA, at an urgent press conference the organization called following the shootings.
The incidents occurred at a time when the Montreal police is reporting a rise in hate crimes and incidents amid the Israel-Hamas war.
“We’re seeing a rise of antisemitism and it’s turning violent. We saw a Molotov cocktail thrown at a synagogue in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux earlier this week. Another one at the Jewish Federation building in Montreal. We saw the mob attacking students yesterday at Concordia. It’s spreading. We had an Imam at a demonstration recently in downtown Montreal spewing hate. The Jewish community, we’re very worried,” said Richard Marceau, Vice President, External Affairs and General Counsel, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in an interview with CityNews.
The SPVM reports 73 hate crimes and incidents against the Jewish community were reported between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, 2023. The police force reports they are investigating 25 hate crimes and incidents against the Muslim community reported during the same period. They say arrests have been made in connection with these cases and investigations are ongoing.
“Most people want peace, but it’s obvious that there are some people who do not want peace, who want to import violence here and are attacking Jews. They’re attacking Jewish schools, attacking Jewish synagogues, attacking Jewish students on campus. This needs to stop. It is time for the authorities to pass the messages that antisemitism on campus or anywhere is unacceptable. It is time for police to continue working closely with the Jewish community to make sure that our institutions are protected, that members of the Jewish community can be fear free in our own city. It is unacceptable in 2023 in Montreal, that the Jewish community lives in fear. That is not the way it’s supposed to be. Not in Montreal, not in Quebec, not in Canada,” Marceau added.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon the Deputy Director of the SPVM said the police force is in close contact with the communities affected and more present on the ground to ensure public security.
“The SPVM is doubling its vigilance and making every effort to ensure that Montreal remains a safe city where everyone can live together harmoniously. We will increase our visibility measures in the vicinity of places of worship and other places of interest. On the territory, the SPVM is appealing for calm. Hateful acts are unacceptable and the SPVM takes them very seriously. We remind you that acts of hatred are prohibited by the criminal code and arrests will take place,” said Vincent Richer, Deputy Director of the Montreal police force (SPVM).
The mayor of Montreal also had a direct message to those behind the hate crimes.
“You will answer for your actions. This is not who we are here in Montreal. We will not accept it. Every violent and hateful event will be investigated by the SPVM which spares no efforts to keep our metropolis safe,” said Montreal mayor Valérie Plante.
“This morning we all woke up horrified by the shooting of two Jewish schools and these events are the latest in a series of violent incidents in Montreal. I appeal to collective responsibility. We must not give up to violence. We need to think about how can we stay united and to talk respectfully and to walk respectfully through this very tough period,” Plante added.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also reacted to the shootings Thursday, telling reporters at a press conference in Montreal that Canadians must denounce violent antisemitism in the strongest terms.
“Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in threats of violence, in violence, in hatred. That’s not who we are as Canadians. Our diversity includes diversity of perspectives and opinions but not to hate, not to lash out with threats of violence or actual violence against someone you disagree with. It doesn’t give you the rights to do what we saw yesterday at Concordia and today with the shots fired in Montreal. It’s not who we are,” Trudeau said.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters at the same news conference that what happened to the two schools cannot be tolerated.
“We can’t tolerate any violence. Yesterday, people physically assaulted at Concordia, this morning gunshots. It needs to stop. It’s urgent that we all calm down in Quebec. Yes, it’s terrible what is happening in the Middle East. But we can’t import that here. We need to live together, respect each other. I hope things will calm down rapidly in the next few days,” Legault added.
“I believe it is not only the responsibility of public authorities, but also community leaders of every community to make sure that that messages of peace and of calm are extended. That is certainly the message that the Jewish community is sending,” Marceau concluded.