Montreal’s Jewish community says it needs more funding for security—and less red tape

Celebration of a new Torah being donated to Meor Hagola Synagogue in Montreal under the watchful eye of police on Nov. 12, 2023. (JCC Montreal/Facebook)

Montreal’s Jewish Community Council (JCC) sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week asking for more help to address the growing security needs of the community.

Over a hundred community organizations signed the letter which asked for a significant boost in SIP (security infrastructure program) funding, a reduction in red tape to facilitate the application process as well as the acquisition of funds, and an increase in security manpower and resources for the Jewish community.

The letter comes after the shooting of two Jewish schools and the firebombing of a synagogue and a Federation building in Montreal last week. One of the schools, Yeshiva Gedola, was struck with bullets twice in the same week. There were no injuries in any of the incidents, which occurred either late at night or very early in the morning.

“Our community is on edge, and our children are frightened and nervous about attending school,” read the letter. “We are calling on the government of Canada to do more to ensure our safety and security and to protect our schools, synagogues, and institutions.”

Rabbi Saul Emanuel, executive director of the JCC, told The CJN that while the organization appreciates the existing funding, more money is needed to address the growing need for security in Jewish institutions across Montreal. Recently, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced that an additional $5 million would be put towards security grants for institutions across Canada.

“We need many more resources. We need many more personnel,” said Rabbi Emanuel. “This is a situation which requires assistance now.”

The federal government needs to take into account the gravity of the situation and make it easier for organizations to apply for funding as well as be quicker to grant the funds.

“When somebody is applying, they need a quick response,” he said. “We are dealing with times where people are in a state of nervousness and under threat. So, we need protection.”

Rabbi Emanuel praised the Montreal Police (SPVM) for their collaboration with community leaders and their continued efforts in ensuring the community’s safety but addressed the need for more resources. “It is extremely difficult for a police force to be in so many places at so many times and at so many different times,” he said.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s office replied to the letter and told the JCC that they are in contact with the SPVM and will make sure they have all the resources they need, Rabbi Emanuel said.

“The support we are getting is very, very positive,” he said. “We just want to ensure that everybody gets the protection they need, at the time that they need it, on a consistent basis.”

Meanwhile, Federation CJA is calling on Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and other elected officials for the authorization to hire off-duty police officers to guard community institutions, and advocating for an immediate change in legislation to allow off-duty officers to be armed. 

Federation has also called on Trudeau to meet with federal intelligence and law enforcement officials to discuss the threat to Montreal’s Jewish community. 

According to Federation CJA, the SPVM has reassured them that the community’s security is their top priority and they will continue to ensure high visibility in Jewish areas. 

(The story has been corrected. It was the premier’s office that contacted the JCC, not the prime minister’s.)