Jewish advocates say suspected hate-motivated arson at North York deli has left community reeling

A Jewish-owned grocery store remains closed the day after a suspected antisemitic arson attack. As Tina Yazdani reports, Toronto police are calling the incident at International Delicatessen Foods in North York a tipping point.

By Tina Yazdani

The day after his store was targeted, the Jewish owner of International Delicatessen Foods in North York covered the words “Free Palestine” that had been spray-painted on his store.

Toronto police responded to a fire at the location on Wednesday and discovered gas cannisters, smashed windows and the graffiti, leading them to investigate the incident as a hate-motivated crime. The fire was put out and no injuries were reported.

The owner declined to comment to media outside the store on Thursday, but many customers and community members stopped by to show their support.

“When the people are just coming and doing this kind of chaos, for myself it’s unacceptable,” said one community member. “[We] just need more respect, especially in this country with 150 nationalities around here, it’s a home for everyone.”

“For me, it’s shock, for me it’s surprise, and I think it can’t be in [a] democratic country,” said another. “It’s not important who [the] owner is … [if] you don’t want to support the business, don’t come to buy.”

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw assured residents Thursday that they would be investigating thoroughly.

“We will leave no stone unturned. All the resources have been made available to investigators to pursue every opportunity to hold those who committed these offences to justice,” said Demkiw.

He’s also promised to boost visibility in the community once again

“We’re going to double down on everything we’re doing already which is a full-service approach,” he added.

Vice President of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs for the GTA, Jamie Kirzner-Roberts tells CityNews the incident has left the Jewish community reeling and feeling unsettled.

“I think we’ve had a frightening wake-up call,” said Kirzner-Roberts. “For something like this to be happening in Canada because of a conflict thousands and thousands of kilometres away. This is just beyond unacceptable.”

“This is the product of weeks and weeks and weeks of hateful rhetoric spread by hate groups operating here,” she added.

Several local leaders have also denounced the violence, including Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner. “Hate has no place in our Ontario, hate is toxic to our democracy.”

City Councillor James Pasternak, who represents the ward where the incident happened, has called for changes to legislation to make it easier to press charges against perpetrators of hate crimes.

“When someone would go to these lengths to target a Jewish-owned business in this atmosphere, it will not stop as a one-off … unless we catch the perpetrators, it is likely to repeat itself,” said Pasternak.

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