Jewish community asks Ottawa for more security funding

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, centre, listens to the Jewish community’s concerns about security. With him from left are CIJA Quebec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather, Outremont MP Rachel Bendayan and Federation CJA first vice-president Joel Segal.

Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, met with leaders of the Montreal Jewish community to discuss security and unease over the rise of anti-Semitism.

Organized by Federation CJA and its advocacy agency, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the roundtable discussion, on Feb. 11, was an opportunity to express appreciation for the government’s Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), which provides funding to communities that are considered to be at risk of being victimized by hate-motivated crimes to enable them to put in place security measures.

Blair was joined by Montreal area Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather, Rachel Bendayan, Emmanuella Lambropoulos and Sameer Zuberi.

The discussion, led by federation first vice-president Joel Segal and CIJA Quebec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko, focused on the community’s belief that security must be bolstered at its institutions in response to the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Canada.

Also participating were federation CEO Yair Szlak and CIJA Quebec vice-president Eta Yudin.

They pointed to Statistics Canada data that has repeatedly shown that Jews continue to be the group most targeted by hate crimes, with an incident occurring once every 24 hours.

In 2018-2019, SIP provided $652,685 in funding for security infrastructure at 14 Montreal Jewish institutions.

The federation and CIJA representatives applauded the government for its recent expansion of the program, while urging Blair to consider increasing funding once again to support other initiatives, including the federation’s new Community Security Network, which represents 34 synagogues, schools and other institutions in the Montreal area. They also urged the strengthening of police hate crimes units.

Blair expressed his wish that as many projects as possible are supported by the fund and pledged to continue working with CIJA and Jewish federations across the country to address the issue of rising anti-Semitism and allay fears in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Poupko commended Blair’s receptiveness to community concerns calling the expansion of SIP “an important first step that has not gone unnoticed.”