‘Target’: Police investigate hate-motivated arson, graffiti at Jewish-owned deli in North York

Toronto police are investigating an alleged arson and hate-motivated graffiti at a deli in North York on Wednesday.

Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray said officers were called to International Delicatessen Foods (IDF) on Steeles Avenue near Keele Street at around 6am.

Gray said the inside of the local business was on fire and “Free Palestine” graffiti was painted on the exterior doors when they arrived at the scene.

“We suspect this is motivated by hate,” Gray told reporters Wednesday night. “Based on the totality of the circumstances, we believe it was committed with bias or prejudice.”

Gray described this incident as a “turning point” in Toronto, which she said will receive the full weight of the police force’s resources to investigate, arrest and prosecute whoever is responsible.

“This is not graffiti at a bus stop. This is not a legal protest protected by a constitutional right. This is a criminal act. It’s violent. It is directed. It’s organized,” Gray said.

“We will leave no stone unturned.”

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“We are outraged and deeply concerned by this serious crime,” said the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto he said in a news release, identifying the deli as a Jewish-owned business. “We urge all Torontonians to take a stand and speak out against the growing anti-Semitism in our midst.”

The deli owner declined an on-camera interview with CTV News, but said he has owned the business for five years.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow issued a statement regarding the incident, stating that acts of anti-Semitism, hatred and violence are not welcome.

“Incidents like this leave people shaken. They diminish our sense of security and belonging. All Toronto residents deserve to be safe and feel safe,” Chow said.

Councilman James Pasternak spoke about the fire Wednesday afternoon. “We are shocked and dismayed [by] the attack on IDF Foods,” Pasternak wrote in a social media post.

“This escalating lawlessness in Toronto must come to an end.”

Deputy Mayor Michael Colle called the incident “disgusting” while speaking to CTV News at the scene.

“It’s a target because whoever did it could have perceived it as a Jewish-owned company. And ironically, the place of business is called International Deli Foods and the monogram in front of the sign says IDF,” Colle said, referring to the coincidental acronym for the Israel Defense Forces.

“You wonder where we are. Are we in the 1930s in Germany, where people throw firebombs and commit acts of arson against people they believe are Jewish?

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CTV News observed police interviewing the deli owner in the morning and searching adjacent businesses in the plaza for security video in hopes of identifying the suspects.

Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said the increasing frequency of these “brazen and hateful acts” in the Greater Toronto Area must come to an end.

Toronto police announced last month that there have been almost 100 hate crimes reported since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7more than double the figure seen during the same period in 2022.

Police classified 56 of the 98 incidents as anti-Semitic. Another 20 were categorized as anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian.

“Leaders at all levels of government have a responsibility to speak out forcefully and take action against the growing intolerance directed at Jewish-owned businesses and the predominantly Jewish neighborhoods that we regularly witness,” Del Duca wrote in a social media post. Wednesday.

With files from Sean Leathong


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