Men convicted of promoting hate against Jews, Blacks

Two Burlington, Ont. men have been convicted of promoting hatred against Jews and Blacks after anti-Semitic and racist messages were left on two buildings in the city in 2019.

Matthew Wasikiewicz and Kyle Kroeplin, both in their early 20s, were convicted last week of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group. They had earlier pleaded guilty to one count each. A second count was withdrawn.

They received conditional sentences of six months imprisonment, meaning they may serve the term outside jail but subject to strict conditions, including home confinement – followed by two years of probation.

Overnight on June 1-2, 2019, Halton Regional Police said they discovered “anti-Semitic imagery” posted on the main doors of the Burlington Art Gallery. On June 2, an anti-Semitic image was found attached to the front doors of Burlington City Hall.

B’nai Brith Canada said these were posters that “encouraged direct physical violence – calling for Jews to be killed.”

Police had earlier released surveillance video of two hooded and masked suspects, both with distinctive orange markings on their backpacks.

B’nai Brith delivered a victim impact statement in sentencing submissions.

“The spreading of hateful propaganda and lies about the Jewish community and other minorities creates an atmosphere of fear, incites people to hateful and violent beliefs, and ultimately jeopardizes the safety of all Jews in the country,” the advocacy group told the court.

It said the statement was cited by the judge “as having effectively demonstrated the impact of anti-Semitic acts on Canada’s Jewish community.”

According to B’nai Brith, the judge said: “The message must go out loud and clear that conduct such as that engaged in by these young men will not be tolerated in Canadian society, and if it is engaged in, it will be met with a severe penalty.”

The sentence “is another positive step in the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

Also delivering a victim impact statement in the case was Rabbi Stephen Wise of Shaarei-Beth El Congregation in Oakville. Via Zoom, he told the accused:

“The posters that you created and displayed on public buildings in Burlington hurts more than you might possibly believe. They are violent images, they compare Jews and Blacks to insects and rodents and were intended to send the message that we don’t belong, that we are inferior, that we are sub-human, that we are worthless, and we deserve to die…Did someone teach you this? Did you learn about it somewhere?”

Rabbi Wise said the images the duo put up sent “a ripple of fear and dread into the hearts” of Holocaust survivors who are members of his synagogue.

“Please learn from this, please go out of your way to make amends for your crime, learn about the communities you have attacked and turn the page,” he said.

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