Jewish advocacy groups are denouncing Montreal’s anti-racism commissioner, Bochra Manaï, for remaining silent while the city’s schools and synagogues suffer a wave of antisemitic attacks.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called for Manaï’s resignation on Nov. 14.
“The anti-racism commissioner’s silence and inaction after a historic week of antisemitic terrorism in Montreal is shocking,” said Eta Yudin vice-president of CIJA. Manaï did not publicly denounce the firebombings of two Jewish institutions which occurred Nov. 7 or the shooting of two Jewish schools that happened two days later.
“At a time where we’re ringing the alarm bells and talking about our concerns about the dramatic rise of antisemitism, at a time where all political leadership have responded, where our political leadership has responded with such clear and unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism and the incidents we’re seeing, someone in a role like this who mandated by the city of Montreal should be setting the tone for what is morally acceptable.” Yudin said in an interview with The CJN.
“The fact that she is not and that she is showing questionable judgment of what she is sharing is of tremendous concern.”
CIJA also criticized Manaï for content she shared on her social media. Manaï shared and commented on an Instagram post from an account called ‘montreal4palestine’ which celebrated one of the many pro-Palestine rallies in downtown Montreal over the last few weeks.
“Proud of my Montreal. Ceasefire, (stop), the occupation and the injustice,” read her comment in French, accompanied by Palestinian flag emojis.
Manaï also attended at least one of the pro-Palestine protests in the city.
“For her to attend rallies where hateful chants and slogans are heard and not be concerned about the tone that that’s setting,” said Yudin. “For her to post things from groups that are questionable raises a huge red flag.”
Yudin said that Manaï is not suitable for the position, especially at a time where Montreal is seeing a rise in antisemitic incidents and citizens rely on her to take a public stance against racism and discrimination.
“I’m not sure how you pedal back from this,” said Yudin. “This is the worst it’s been in decades in terms of antisemitism in Quebec and around the world.”
Manaï’s current position has the mandate to fight against racism and discrimination with the goal of making Montreal a more inclusive city. The position was created in the summer of 2020. One of the priorities for this year is to create awareness about hate incidents and hate crimes in collaboration with the Montreal Police (SPVM) and the city’s Diversity and Social Inclusion Department.
B’nai Brith also denounced Manaï’s silence. “As the anti-racism commissioner, we call on her to immediately bring to bear the authority of her office to help combat the contemptible events in Montreal over the past week,” read B’nai Brith’s post on X.
Manaï addressed the call for her resignation in an open letter to the media on Wednesday.
“As some have noticed on my social networks, I recently took part in demonstrations in Montreal in support of a request for a ceasefire. I consider this individual posture to be a duty of humanity,” read her statement.
She went on to say that she is deeply concerned about the hate-motivated incidents that have occurred in Montreal since the start of the war in October and she is working to ensure that all municipal practices are fair.
“The Islamophobic and antisemitic acts and behaviors that have been committed in recent weeks in Montreal are all unacceptable and the violence must be strongly condemned,” she said.
“Targeting Jewish schools and children with bullets is a crime that must be punished and which has no place in a metropolis like Montreal. Targeting Muslim places of worship is just as important.”