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More than 2 dozen faith leaders in Ottawa sign joint statement condemning hate

Dozens of faith leaders in Ottawa and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe issued a joint statement condemning hatred in the city. Oct. 20, 2023. Dozens of faith leaders in Ottawa and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe issued a joint statement condemning hatred in the city. Oct. 20, 2023.
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Faith leaders from Ottawa's Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities have issued a joint statement condemning hatred in all its forms as tensions from the Israel-Hamas war echo across the world.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe released the statement Friday afternoon.

"This week I met with a group of religious leaders from throughout Ottawa to speak about the need to work together to ensure Ottawa remains safe and peaceful and to denounce all forms of hatred and discrimination, no matter what is happening in other parts of the world," Sutcliffe wrote.

The statement was co-signed by 33 local faith leaders, including Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Marcel Damphousse, Rabbi Idan Scher, of Congregation Machzikei Hadas and Imam Sikander Hashmi, of the Kanata Muslim Association.

"We recognize that there is tremendous pain and grief in our city right now," the statement says.

"While we may not agree on everything, and at times, it may seem like we agree on very little, here in Ottawa we have a commitment that we share with every good person in the world. We will never tolerate what is going on around the world to be used as a justification for any form of discrimination, violence or hatred in our city."

The joint statement calls on all residents of Ottawa to denounce hatred and to never glorify or take joy in violence.

"We urge everyone to never allow our ideologies, religious beliefs, or political positions to become a cause for hatred of another human being," the statement says. "We are all neighbours. We stand with each other and against all forms of hate now and forever."

Scher told CTV News Ottawa that Sutcliffe reached out to him to discuss what the faith community could do.

"We came up with this idea that maybe if we had this united front... if we could just say that there are certain things that are just not tolerated in this city," Scher said. "We will never tolerate, we will never allow, we will never give any sort of space, as far as faith leadership is concerned, as far as leadership in our city is concerned, for any ideology, any political thinking to ever translate itself as hate toward any individual. That's just not something we'll allow in our city."

Hashmi said it was important that leaders of congregations across the capital show that stand up against discrimination and hatred.

"When difficult situations arise, they can evoke very strong emotions, especially when we look at the heartbreaking situation in the Middle East," said Hashmi. "I think it's incredibly important for faith leaders to send a message of unity and togetherness at such a time."

Hashmi says in the past 13 days, the National Council of Canadian Muslims has seen a dramtic increase in reported cases of hate and Islamophobia in Canada.

"We're seeing this in schools, in workplaces, on the street, so this is a very real concern."

Scher said he hopes that the message will be accepted by all who need to hear it.

"Speaking for the Jewish community, this is a very scary time. It's even more scary for our high school students, our elementary school students that are in the public schools," Scher said. "My entire time in Ottawa, I've never heard of such extreme antisemitism levelled by young people against young people. It boggles my mind." 

Hate-motivated crimes in Ottawa up 11 per cent compared to same time last year

Ottawa police are still noticing a rising trend in hate-motivated crimes in the city, but the police service could not speak to the immediate fallout from the Israel-Hamas war.

In an email to CTV News Ottawa, an Ottawa Police Service spokesperson said police did not have specific data since Oct. 7, but noted the overall number of hate-motivated or bias incidents, both criminal and non criminal, have risen 11.4 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Police said there have been 351 hate- or bias-motivated incidents in the city so far in 2023, compared to 315 at this time in 2022.

Toronto's police chief said this week that calls for service related to hate-motivated incidents have increased 132 per cent since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a wide-scale assault on Israel, killing hundreds of people, many of them civilians.

Ottawa police reported a 23.5 per cent increase in hate- and bias-motivated incidents in the first half of 2023. Jewish, LGBTQ2S+, Black, Chinese and Muslim residents were the most common targets of hate- and bias-motivated crimes.

In a statement Thursday, Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs said there are no credible reports of specific threats targeting religious communities in Ottawa amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but police remain vigilant.

"As the local impact from the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza continues to intensify, the Ottawa Police remains fully engaged with our local Jewish and Palestinian communities," Stubbs said in the statement that was also translated into Hebrew and Arabic.

"No one should live in fear. The increased number of hate crimes, and hate-motivated incidents, are concerning. We continue to encourage anyone who witnesses or experiences such incidents to report them to police. We will prosecute those who commit hate crimes to the full extent of the law." 

Statement from Ottawa mayor and faith leaders

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