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Ford suggests immigrants to blame for shooting at Toronto Jewish school, despite few details from police | CBC News

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested Thursday that immigrants were responsible for shooting at a Jewish girls’ elementary school in North York last weekend, despite police saying they have little information on the suspects.

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an unrelated announcement in Toronto, both leaders condemned the shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka school in the early morning hours Saturday.

“What lunatic goes around shooting up schools? That is just unacceptable,” Ford said.

“These guys need to be caught, they need to be punished, they need to be thrown in jail. And I have zero tolerance for this anywhere in Ontario,” he continued.

Asked by a reporter about how their governments are defending Jewish communities amid a reported rise in antisemitic hate crimes, Ford implied immigrants were behind the shooting.

“It does not matter what race, what creed, what religion you are from, I would say the exact same thing if it was another community as well. Enough is enough. You are bringing problems from everywhere else in the world, bringing it to Ontario and going after other Canadians,” he said.

“That’s unacceptable. I have an idea: before you plan on moving to Canada, do not come if you’re going to terrorize neighbourhoods like this. It’s simple as that. You want to be a resident of Ontario? You get along with everyone,” Ford continued.

WATCH | Ford suggests immigrants to blame for shooting at Jewish school: 

Ford decries ‘unacceptable’ shootings at Jewish schools, suggests immigrants are to blame

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Thursday denounced violence targeting religious institutions, including recent incidents targeting Jewish schools. ‘Enough is enough,’ said Ford, who then criticized some immigrants, saying some people are ‘bringing your problems from everywhere else in the world’ to Ontario.

Ford went on to say diversity is Ontario’s “number one selling point around the world” and people from 110 different nationalities have settled here.

“And guess what? Ninety-nine per cent of the people get along. There are wars going on all around the world but we still get along,” he said.

Opposition leaders, advocates call for apology

Ford’s comments sparked criticism, including from Opposition NDP Leader Marit Stiles, who said on X, formerly Twitter, that she was “appalled by the premier’s racist remarks” and urged him to apologize.

“Fighting hate with hate has never worked. Fighting antisemitism with xenophobia won’t keep communities safe,” she said.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner called Ford’s comments dangerous.

“He’s inflaming anti-immigrant sentiment without any proof to back up the claims he’s making today,” Schreiner said. “That is completely irresponsible. It’s beneath the dignity of a premier, and I believe the premier should apologize.”

LISTEN | School principal says students are reeling after shooting:

As It Happens6:25‘This is a shock and it is traumatic,’ principal says after shots fired at Toronto Jewish school

Police are investigating after shots were fired at a Jewish girls’ elementary school in Toronto early Saturday morning. The school was empty and nobody was harmed. Rabbi Yaacov Vidal, the school’s principal, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal his students are reeling from what he believes was an act of antisemitism.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), which represents over a million workers in the province, joined in on calls for an apology.

“Doug Ford’s racist comments are a disgrace,” said OFL President Laura Walton in a news release. 

“In the wake of the tragic violence experienced by the Bais Chaya Mushka on Saturday, we need leaders who build unity, not division.”

Syed Hussan, the executive director of advocacy group The Migrant Workers Alliance, told CBC Toronto Ford’s comments are “a way to fan the flames of racism and divisiveness,” particularly ahead of any federal or potential provincial election. 

“I think this is not in any way an off-the-cuff remark,” he said. 

“He’s saying we are all collectively responsible for this. And the knock on effect, of course, is going to be increased attacks and abuse in our communities.”

Following the criticism, Ford said on X, “Ontario is the greatest place in the world because of our diversity.

“My comments today meant to stress that there is more that unites us than divides us,” he said. “While there will always be room for disagreement, violent acts that target specific religions or ethnicities do not reflect who we are or the values that represent our province.”

Toronto police investigating

Saturday’s shooting drew strong condemnation from politicians and community leaders. A support rally was held outside the school Monday.

Toronto police’s guns and gangs task force and hate crime unit are investigating the shooting. Investigators have not publicly identified any suspects, however.

In a statement Thursday, Toronto police said the investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made.

“Regarding immigration status, this is not information that we track nor do we disclose the immigration status of suspects or victims,” a spokesperson said.

CBC Toronto reached out to Ford’s office to ask if the premier had any further information about the shooting or whether he would like to clarify his comments, and received a brief email response.

“The premier was clear, if you are in Ontario, we have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour. These actions do not reflect Canadian values,” said Caitlin Clark, Ford’s director of communications.

Earlier this week, police said security video showed a dark-coloured vehicle pulled up in front of the school and two suspects opened fire.

Investigators have released some of that footage: 

A bullet hole was found in a window at the school, and other “evidence of gunfire” was also located, police said. No one was inside the school at the time.

The most recent statistics from Toronto police, released in March, showed the city has seen a sharp rise in reported hate crimes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. At the time, Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw said 56 per cent of all reported hate crimes in 2024 were antisemtic in nature.

Comments are premature, critic says

This isn’t the first time Ford has weighed in on a case before all the facts have come to light.

In 2021, Toronto police Const. Jeffrey Northrup died after being run over in an underground parking garage and investigators charged Umar Zameer with first-degree murder in his death.

Zameer, who was with his pregnant wife and two-year-old son at the time, testified at his trial that he didn’t know Northrup and his partner — who were both in plain clothes — were police officers. Zameer testified he tried to escape as safely as possible from what he believed was an attack on his family after two strangers ran up to his car and banged on it.

Ford lashed out after Zameer was granted bail early in the case. The premier said on social media that the bail decision was “completely unacceptable.” Ford initially described Zameer as “the person responsible for this heinous crime,” but later changed it to “the person charged.”

In April, a jury found Zameer not guilty.

After the verdict, Ford said he did not have all the information at the time he made those statements. 

Ontario Liberal party parliamentary leader John Fraser said the premier needs to avoid weighing in on cases when little is known.

“He hasn’t learned anything since his comments about Umar Zameer, and how much that affected that man and that family,” Fraser said.

“It’s a premier’s job to be calm and the voice of reason and what he really should be saying is ‘we’re going to do everything we can to protect any community that is affected by hate.'”

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