Police Investigating Graffiti at Guelph Synagogue as Hate Crime

Hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, at least according to the latest statistics from Stats Can, but you can probably see it all around, even here in good old Guelph. After repeated incidents of vandalism at the headquarters of the Guelph Black Heritage Society this summer, it seems like its time for Guelph’s Jewish community to get a taste of hate crimes as Guelph Police are now investigating an incident from last week.

According to a Guelph Police Service media release, an employee of Beth Isaiah Synagogue on Surrey Street West called police to the scene around noon on Friday to report that they found several anti-Semitic stickers placed on the front door of the building, including stickers that bore the image of none other than Adolf Hitler.

The search is now on for the responsible party, who was revealed on surveillance video. At around 11:30 pm on the night of Wednesday October 5, a man arrived on foot, placed the stickers on the door, and then appeared to take a selfie of themselves standing in front of the now sticker covered door of the synagogue. Police are considering this a hate crime, and are investigating it as such.

“The Guelph Police Service will not tolerate hate-motivated acts and will fully investigate every such reported incident,” the media release said.

The suspect is described as wearing a dark jacket with a sweater hood pulled up over his head, black pants, black boots, black gloves, a dark-coloured backpack and a balaclava-style mask over his face. He was last seen walking northbound on Dublin Street South. You can see images of the suspect from video surveillance below.

This is the latest incident of vandalism tied to racism here in Guelph, and that includes numerous reports of sign vandalism against candidates who are people of colour, as well as a long list of vandalism acts this summer against Heritage Hall, home to the Guelph Black Heritage Society which is less than a five-minute walk from the Beth Isaiah Synagogue.

In one especially egregious incident from August, a memorial to a long-time volunteers was found destroyed. “This particular incident carries a different weight as it was a memorial to our late GBHS volunteer Norwood Francis,” read a social media post. “The GBHS community and volunteers are at a loss for words. We appreciate the support we have received from people reaching out to us directly or through social media.”

According to Statistics Canada in a study released earlier this year, there was a country-wide increase in hate crimes in 2020, the last full year in which statistics were available. According to the data, police-reported hate crimes increased by 37 per cent, or 718 more incidents, compared with the previous year, and while reports of hate crimes targeting religious groups went down by 16 per cent, the number of hate crimes against race and ethnic groups increased by 80 per cent.

If you have information about the incident at the Beth Isaiah Synagogue call Detective Constable Jagdeep Atwal, the Guelph Police’s hate crimes co-ordinator, at 519-824-1212, ext. 7436, or email him at jatwal [at] guelphpolice.ca.

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