A spate of crimes targeting members of several diverse communities in Halifax has police investigating two of the incidents as hate crimes.
Members of those communities are reacting with sadness, to what is an unfortunate reminder that racism is a reality for many Maritimers.
Syrian ice cream shop Booza Emessa is back in business, after thieves did major damage in a break-in, both at the ice cream store and a Syrian barbeque restaurant next door.
Some on social media wondered if the crimes were motivated by racism, but police and the shop owner, say they don’t know that.
“Until the police say who he or she is, I don’t know exactly,” says Nabil Alzaabi, owner of Booza Emessa.
“At this point, it’s too early to determine what the motivation of the individual was,” adds Constable John MacLeod of the Halifax Regional Police.
However, officers are investigating two other incidents in Halifax this weekend as hate crimes.
The first, reported Friday by the Atlantic Jewish Council, after it became aware of anti-Semitic stickers appearing in locations throughout the city, falsely implying a connection between the Jewish community and COVID-19.
“Obviously it’s very upsetting,” says Naomi Rosenfeld, executive director of the Atlantic Jewish Council.
The council asks anyone who sees the stickers to report them to police right away, and to help find those responsible.
“This is just a fringe, radical, small, small group, and we know that we have solidarity amongst the community,” adds Rosenfeld.
On Saturday, officers found what police are describing as ‘highly offensive racial slurs’ on a sign directing visitors the grave of Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond.
That was emotional news for Desmond’s younger sister to hear.
“I am sad about it,” says Wanda Robson. “I’m saddened. We seem to have come along so far, but then you take a few steps forward and then you go back.”
Nova Scotia RCMP say they have received 17 reports of what they call ‘suspected or confirmed hate crime component’ since January 1.
“Unfortunately in the kind of climate that we’re in, we’re seeing, and we will see more of these incidents,” says Timothy Bryan, a sociology professor at Dalhousie University.
Bryan studies hate crimes, racism and criminal justice, and says reports of hate crimes in Halifax are disappointing, but not surprising.
“What we’re seeing through official data or through anecdotes, my fear is that it’s only a small proportion of what’s actually happening out there,” says Bryan.
“We know that if they’re out there, it’s important that they’re brought to our attention so that we can investigate them, we can look at them,” adds Cst. MacLeod.
Back at the Syrian ice cream shop, a glimmer of the positive, as the owners say an outpouring of community support since the break-in has helped the business reopen and get back on their feet.
“Oh my God, the community, they are helping and supporting,” says Nabil Alzaabi.