TORONTO (JTA) – In a first for Canada, the government is spending on security for Jewish institutions.
The funding, which includes nine Jewish community institutions, synagogues and schools in Ontario and Alberta, was announced last Friday by Stockwell Day, Canada’s minister of public safety.
The $216,000 grant to the Jewish groups is the first under the $3 million, two-year Security Infrastructure Pilot Program established by Canada’s Conservative government last summer to help minority communities combat hate crimes.
The funds are intended to deter hate-motivated acts and help Jewish facilities defray the cost of security measures such as surveillance cameras, lighting, alarm and intercom systems, gates and fences, and security training.
It represents the first time a government in Canada has allocated public money for the protection of vulnerable ethnic or religious minorities.
“I know what it’s like to visit a Jewish community where not just heartbreaking but outrageous things are written on the walls, where windows are broken or far worse, where fires have taken place,” Day said at a small gathering of Jewish leaders in Thornhill, north of Toronto. “And these are realities which grip our hearts.”
Jewish communities across Canada have been advised to review security measures in the wake of threats from Hezbollah following the Feb. 12 assassination of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus.
The new funds will provide a total of $81,722 to four Toronto-area Jewish community organizations: The Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living, Shaar Shalom Synagogue and the Toronto Cheder.
The Jewish Federation of Ottawa will receive $74,100.
Other recipients include Beth Ezekiel Synagogue in Owen Sound, Ont., which will receive $3,050; the Calgary Jewish Academy, $18,601; Congregation House of Jacob-Mikveh Israel in Calgary, $4,475; and the Chevra Kadisha Chapel in Edmonton, $34,117.
A Muslim group in Brantford, Ontario, and a Sikh organization in British Columbia also will receive funds. They and the Jewish groups were chosen from 100 applicants.
To be eligible, organizations had to show they were part of a community with a demonstrated history of being victimized by hate crimes.
The grants are on a cost-sharing basis, meaning recipients will have to match the amounts either dollar-for-dollar or with in-kind contributions such as labor, equipment or expertise.
“We will have more than just laws and enforcement,” Day said. “We will have preventative means.”
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto will invest more than $3 million in Jewish community security over the next three years.
“Over the past five years, there has been a significant increase in the resources needed to secure our community,” Doron Horowitz, the Toronto federation’s community security director, said in a statement.
Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber said it is “incumbent” on the government “to see that vulnerable communities are protected.”
The district of Thornhill, where Day’s announcement was made, was identified last year as a key area in the Conservatives’ strategy to woo minorities.
It is Canada’s “most Jewish” district, with about 40 percent Jews. Conservatives are eager to unseat the current Liberal member of parliament there.