UVic condemns display of anti-Semitic poster

A poster displaying Internet links to far-right websites and bearing the triple parentheses ((( ))) recognized as an online signal to anti-Semites has appeared on University of Victoria bulletin boards.

A university official is “profoundly disappointed” that anyone would post offensive discriminatory material such as this.

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“We take incidents of racism, discrimination and harassment very seriously, and are committed to responding through the hard work of offices across campus and a suite of university policies that guide our response,” Cassbreea Dewis, acting director of UVic’s equity and human rights office, said in a Thursday statement.

According to the Martlet, the UVic student newspaper, the racist poster first appeared on a bulletin board on campus in October. But it got more attention after the campus group Anti-Racist Action posted an item condemning it on Facebook.

(((THOSE))) WHO HATE US WILL NOT REPLACE US,” says the poster, alongside a picture of a white family of five — man, woman and three blond children — lined up and gazing into the distance.

“Defend Canadian heritage,” says the poster. “Fight back against anti-white hatred.”

Cormac O’Brien, co-editor-in-chief of the Martlet, said UVic is a “quite a liberal campus” that includes a healthy conservative cohort. But he has never encountered anyone who would support or sympathize with the poster.

The poster has drawn the attention of the university’s equity and human rights office and anti-racism campus groups, including B’nai Brith.

A report came in to UVic’s Campus Security Services on Oct. 18 at about 10 p.m. that offensive posters were displayed on several bulletin boards in the Cornett Building.

Officers responded at once and when they arrived, learned that students and a teaching assistant had already removed the anti-Semitic posters, Dewis said. Security officers searched other UVic buildings and did not find any other posters.

No connection between this incident and any university group or member has been found, she said. An investigation is continuing.

The equity and human rights office is working to raise awareness and encourage dialogue about ways to tackle discrimination and racism, Dewis said.

This includes educational events in spring 2018, called Five Days of Action, a week-long series of forums and discussions to engage the campus in working together to create change.

UVic is committed to being a diverse and welcoming community, Dewis said. “The university's mission is to educate, create awareness and build a community where diversity and inclusion are fundamental values that we are all proud to uphold.”

Daniel Koren, spokesman for B’nai Brith Canada, said the appearance of the poster is the first on a Canadian campus since early August, when white supremacists marched with flaming torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one person was killed.

Koren said the triple parentheses have, in recent years, become a sign to online anti-Semites to be on the lookout for Jews, almost like an Internet swastika.

He said people whose names are enclosed within the triple parentheses have found themselves singled out for online harassment.

The words on the poster are a direct reference to Charlottesville, where the torch-bearing demonstrators chanted “Jews will not replace us.”

“Perhaps those who distributed these flyers thought they were being clever,” said Koren.

“But to us, people who are aware, we could see right away they are targeting members of the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Harry Brechner of the Congregation Emanu-El said the appearance of the poster in Greater Victoria is troubling.

Brechner noted that next Thursday the synagogue will hold vigils and commemorative ceremonies for Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. On that night — Nov. 9, 1938, Nazis went on a rampage in Germany, burning 250 synagogues and smashing 7,000 Jewish-owned shops and businesses.

Brechner said he has always been gratified that the synagogue’s event draws people of all faiths. He said the event next Thursday will be a good moment to react to the poster.

“We can all say: ‘No, not in our city,’ ” he said.

UVic said that anyone with information is asked to contact the office of equity and human rights or Campus Security Services.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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