Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Ottawa helps Jewish community beef up security

The federal government has renewed security funding for Jewish and other ethnic communities at risk of hate crimes in Canada in 2008. The money will come from the government’s previously announced Security Infrastructure Program, a $3-million fund to be dispersed to non-profit and other provincially recognized community organizations that want to augment their existing security measures.

Announced by Minister for Public Safety Stockwell Day, right, last summer as a two-year pilot program, the funding was officially renewed by the minister on Feb. 29. Visiting the Thornhill Community Centre last Friday, Day told community leaders that his office has allotted $216,066 in security funding for nine Jewish institutions across the country.

In Ontario, the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living in Toronto received $8,925; the Beth Ezekiel Synagogue in Owen Sound received $3,050; The Jewish Federation of Ottawa received $74,100; the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto received $44,747; the Shaar Shalom Synagogue in Thornhill received $13,550; and the Toronto Cheder received $14,500.

In Alberta, the Calgary Jewish Academy received $18,601; Calgary’s Congregation House of Jacob Mikveh Israel received $4,475; and Edmonton’s Chevra Kadisha burial service received $34,117.50.

“This announcement demonstrates our government’s leadership in protecting the right of all Canadians to live in a society where every citizen will feel safe in their community,” Day said.

Jewish community leaders hailed the announcement.

“The Jewish community bears the unfortunate distinction of being the most frequently targeted community in terms of hate- and bias-motivated crime,” Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Canadian Jewish Congress’ co-president, said in a statement. “A 2004 study produced by Statistics Canada showed that of the 928 hate crime incidents recorded in Canada in 2001-2002, 25 per cent were directed against the Jewish community.”

Added CJC co-president Sylvain Abitbol: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the government on this matter, and to a fuller expansion of the program to ensure that financial resources are sufficient to meet the needs of all communities who require this support.”

David Koschitzky, chair of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said, “Our community has for many years shouldered the responsibility of making security preparedness a necessary part of our communal life, so we are grateful for this support.”

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada called the announcement “an important step forward in what must be part and parcel of a sustained, long-term effort to provide for the safety and security of all Canadians.”

According to Day’s office, the program is intended to help “defray the costs of security infrastructure enhancements.”

Communities can claim expenses on items such as security assessments, alarm systems, fences, contractor fees, and labour and training costs on new security equipment.

The government has set April 15 as the next application date for funding.

When the pilot program was announced last year, it was not without its detractors.

At the time, the federal Liberals called the Conservative program an “act of political desperation” and a “watered-down version” of a proposed Liberal security plan put forward by Liberal leader Stéphane Dion last March.

Dion’s plan, they said, would have committed retroactive funding for organizations who had already paid for increased security measures to protect their communities.

Thornhill Liberal MP Susan Kadis, who chaired a Liberal caucus task force on security funding for communities at risk, told The CJN last year that the Conservative program did not allocate enough funding.

“It’s just not enough money… it misses the mark,” Kadis said. “We believe it shouldn’t be a ‘pilot’ project, it should just be in place.”

Kadis’ task force consulted with affected communities and was to have finalized its report in late August of last year with its own recommendations for the funding amounts.

Calls to Kadis were not returned by The CJN’s deadline.

Bernie Farber, the CJC’s chief executive officer, also told The CJN last year that he thought the program should contain funds in the $15- to $20-million range in order for it to be effective, but he credited the Conservatives for making good on the program nonetheless.

“I’m still of the opinion that [security funding] has to be expanded,” Farber told The CJN last week. “But my belief is that this is something the government is seriously looking into doing.”