Saturday’s attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was an odious act fueled by intolerance, ignorance, and malice – a stark and somber reminder that hate still exists in this world.
In the wake of this tragedy, Canadians from coast to coast have declared their support for the grieving Jewish Community in Pittsburgh, and have voiced their solidarity with Jewish communities across the country. This kind of unity is a step in the right direction, a step towards a better and brighter future. But more work needs to be done, both abroad and at home.
Canada is not without its shortcomings. We live in a free and democratic society, but we are not free from Anti-Semitism – which, statistics show, is on the rise in our country. Nor are we exempt from senseless acts of violence or immune to the language of hate.
It is important to remember that words matter. Words have the power to shame, blame, and maim. Hate speech is the impetus that leads to hate crime – as we witnessed in Pittsburgh on the weekend. There is no place for this in our society. There is no place for hateful words or hateful actions, for intolerance or terrorism.
It is the duty of the whole community to respond to hate speech. The burden is not to be carried alone by the targeted group. We must work together. We must stand up and speak out, in unison, against hate. We must challenge words and actions that are harmful and divisive. We must have courageous conversations about the ills afflicting our society in order to find ways to remedy them.
The increase of Anti-Semitism and the recent rise of hate speech in our country should be a deep concern for every citizen. As citizens, not only do we have the responsibility to respect the rights and freedoms of others, we also have the responsibility of upholding these rights and standing with those whose rights and freedoms come under threat.
It is time to band together and rise above hate.
It is time to invest in education and relationship building that will help eradicate hateful words, hateful ideas, and hateful actions in our communities.
It is time to make this world a better place.
David M. Arnot, Chief Commissioner
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission