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Ontario leaders warn of rising antisemitism as they observe Holocaust Remembrance Day

Political leaders in Ontario are observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day amid a reported rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East.

Saturday marks the 79th anniversary of the day Auschwitz-Birkenau, a key concentration camp in the Nazi Holocaust, was liberated.

Nearly six million European Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust — the mass murder of Jews and other groups before and during World War II.

The anniversary is marked across the world as a moment to reflect and work to ensure atrocities do not take place.

In Ontario, political leaders are remembering those who died and calling for vigilance as anti-semitic hate crimes rise.

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“As one of the darkest chapters in history, the Holocaust is a painful reminder of the dangers of antisemitism, discrimination and intolerance — dangers which continue to be a problem in our society today,” Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michael Ford said in a statement.

Ontario NDP leader Marit Stiles shared a message on social media, calling the Holocaust a “stain on outer collective history” that can still be felt. She warned antisemitism in Ontario is rising and said people have a shared responsibility to stop it.

Bonnie Crombie, Ontario Liberal leader, said she stood “united with the Jewish community in solemn remembrance and determination to continue to fight antisemitism in all its forms.”

In a video, Premier Doug Ford said antisemitism “continues to be a problem in society today.”

The warnings from political leaders come as Toronto police warn of a dramatic rise in hate-motivated, anti-Jewish crimes.

In a January update, Toronto Police Service Chief Myron Demkiw said antisemitism accounted for 37 per cent of all hate crimes reported in 2023, more than any other category.

Demkiw said a total of 132 antisemitic hate crimes were reported in 2023, compared to 65 in 2022.

The number spiked after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel — sitting at 48 in November alone — but was already trending to eclipse the total number 2022 figures, even without the last two months of the year.

— with a file from The Associated Press

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