"You quote and agree with Toronto’s Chief of police misrepresenting the protests as an intimidation tactic against Jewish people and that their location was “targeted because it’s in close proximity to Toronto’s largest Jewish neighborhood.” These claims are demonstrably false."
January 17, 2024
Rob Breakenridge, Host, QR Calgary
Kevin Usselman, Producer, Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge, QR Calgary
John Vos, Regional Program Director, QR Calgary
Dear Rob Breakenridge, Kevin Usselman, and John Vos,
I am writing to express concern about the Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge’s radio segment that aired on QR Calgary at 14:18 on Monday, January 15.
The transcript reads:
So, Toronto’s Police chief announced last Thursday that things had gotten concerning enough that protests there would no longer be allowed, that there was very serious concern for community safety, that this area was being targeted because it's close, in close proximity to Toronto’s largest Jewish neighborhood. The Jewish community there was feeling as though this was about intimidating them as opposed to any legitimate points about the conflict. […] We’ve really good reasons, communities of this area of the city are feeling intimidated by the actions of the demonstrators who have targeted this bridge. Under the criminal charge of mischief, we know that this behavior around the bridge has led to feelings of insecurity and intimidation for the Jewish community. Yeah. To me, it seems like why would these protests are about why otherwise do you choose that location. Like Toronto got some spots, you know, that are typically used for protesting: Nathan Phillips square’s one of them, and there were some of those protests over the weekend there too. So, the fact that they chose this particular road to me says, says a lot and not in a good way.
Your radio segment inaccurately describes the pro-Palestine protests that took place at Avenue Road and Highway 401.
You say: “that this area was being targeted because it's close, in close proximity to Toronto’s largest Jewish neighborhood.”
You further add:
Yeah. To me, it seems like why would these protests are about why otherwise do you choose that location. […] So, the fact that they chose this particular road to me says, says a lot and not in a good way.
You quote and agree with Toronto’s Chief of police misrepresenting the protests as an intimidation tactic against Jewish people and that their location was “targeted because it’s in close proximity to Toronto’s largest Jewish neighborhood.” These claims are demonstrably false.
The organizers of one of the protests released a press statement, “Eglinton-Lawrence & Don Valley 4 Palestine,” which makes clear that the protests are in no way targeting Jewish people or even taking place in the location because it is a “Jewish neighborhood.” Many of the organizers are Jewish and live in the neighbourhood; others are not Jewish but also live there. The organizers write:
We are exercising our right to peaceful assembly in our own neighborhood by attending recent rallies at 401 @ Avenue, a busy overpass and intersection with high visibility and sidewalks. We are NOT protesting in this intersection because of its “high Jewish population.” We are protesting because of its accessibility to us and its visibility. […] It should be noted that this action follows the model of similar 401 banner drops organized in solidarity with Ukraine – actions that raised no similar objections.
The above statement, from the organizers themselves, shows that claiming that the protest was chosen because of its Jewish population is false.
The press statement also shows that the protests at Avenue Road were part of a larger effort, which included protests at high-visibility sites all over Toronto and Ontario. This further undermines any suggestion that the protest was related to the Jewish character of the area.
Such words seek to undermine the actions they have undertaken all over the country and not specifically in “Jewish neighborhoods.”
I, therefore, ask you for an on-air correction that these protests and protestors do not target the Avenue Road overpass for its close proximity to Toronto’s “largest Jewish neighborhood” or to intimidate.
In that sense, it should be mentioned that a 2021 census determined that nearly 400,000 persons in Canada identify as Jewish by religion or ethnicity. One-half of them live in Toronto. In other words, there is a high probability that an overpass will be located near a neighborhood where a lot of Jewish people reside.
On the other hand, Avenue Road is located on the southern boundary of York Centre, where, according to Canadian Jewish News, only 19 % of its residents are Jewish. However, according to a Statistics Canada 2016 census, only about 5% of York Centre is Jewish, which is to the north of the Avenue Road Bridge protest. Importantly, the Avenue Road Bridge protest is in Eglinton—Lawrence, which is very diverse. Only about 5% of this district is Jewish as well, again according to the 2016 census. The census data is based on ethnic origin. If you look at Elections Canada’s estimates, it is 16.0% for Eglinton-Lawrence and 14% for York Centre, still a distinct minority.
I, therefore, also ask you for an on-air correction that this is not “Toronto’s largest Jewish neighborhood.”
I hope QR Calgary will not further mislead its listeners regarding the pro-Palestine protests and their intentions.
Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East