Toronto police are looking into the possibility of a hate crime after a fire broke out at a Jewish deli in the city’s north end on Wednesday night.
Deli owner says he received threatening messages
The owner of the United Bakers Dairy Restaurant, a family-run business that has been operating since 1912, said he received several anti-Semitic messages on social media before the fire. He said he reported the messages to the police, but did not think they were serious until he saw the flames.
“I was shocked, I was scared, I was angry,” he said. “This is not just an attack on my business, this is an attack on my community, on my heritage, on my faith.”
He said the fire caused extensive damage to the kitchen and the dining area, and he does not know when he will be able to reopen. He said he is grateful that no one was injured, as the restaurant was closed at the time of the fire.
Police treating fire as suspicious, possible hate crime
Toronto police said they received a call about a fire at the deli around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. They said the fire was quickly extinguished by the firefighters, and no one was inside the building.
Police said they are treating the fire as suspicious, and they are investigating it as a possible hate crime. They said they are reviewing the security footage from the deli and the surrounding area, and they are asking anyone with information to come forward.
“We take this very seriously, especially given the nature of the messages that were sent to the owner,” said Const. David Hopkinson. “We are working with our hate crime unit and our arson unit to find out who is responsible for this.”
Community rallies behind deli owner, denounces anti-Semitism
The fire at the deli has sparked an outpouring of support from the community, as well as condemnation of anti-Semitism. Many customers, neighbours, and friends have reached out to the owner, offering help and donations. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help the owner rebuild his business.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a national advocacy group, said it is appalled by the fire and the hateful messages. It said it is working with the police and the owner to ensure his safety and security.
“This is a cowardly and despicable act of hatred, targeting a beloved institution of the Jewish community,” said Noah Shack, CIJA’s vice-president for the Greater Toronto Area. “We stand in solidarity with the owner and his staff, and we call on all Canadians to speak out against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.”
Fire at deli adds to the rise of hate crimes in Canada
The fire at the deli is the latest in a series of hate crimes that have occurred in Canada in recent years. According to Statistics Canada, there were 1,946 hate crimes reported by the police in 2023, an increase of 7% from 2022. The most common targets of hate crimes were racial or ethnic groups, followed by religious groups and sexual orientation groups.
Among the religious groups, Jews were the most frequently targeted, accounting for 18% of all hate crimes in 2023. Other groups that faced a high number of hate crimes were Muslims, Catholics, and Sikhs.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN), a non-profit organization that monitors and counters hate groups, said the fire at the deli is a wake-up call for the government and the society to take action against hate and extremism.
“We are seeing a rise of hate crimes across the country, fueled by online radicalization, conspiracy theories, and misinformation,” said Evan Balgord, CAHN’s executive director. “We need to invest more resources in education, prevention, and enforcement, and we need to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.”