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The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service issued a warning to the federal Public Safety Department addressing what the agency called a spike in “violent rhetoric” from “extremist actors” since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Agency officials expressed fears that the rhetoric could escalate to violence. 

The spy agency first consulted with the federal Public Safety Department and Muslim and Jewish leaders last fall about the rise in reported hate crimes which have been fueled by the conflict.

“While the long-term impacts of the current crisis cannot be easily predicted, it is clear that this conflict has raised tensions within our society,” wrote CSIS spokesman Eric Balsam, according to the Canadian Press

“Violent rhetoric from extremist actors has increased since the attack by Hamas and, as the conflict continues to unfold, it is possible that these events could impact certain individuals’ intent to mobilize to violence.”

CSIS monitors potentially dangerous behaviour and identifies threats to be relayed to the government and law enforcement. 

Balsam noted that their surveillance does not include government dissent or lawful protests, which are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian Press received the CSIS documents via the Access to Information Act which revealed summaries of the discussions between federal officials and leaders from both the Jewish and Muslim communities regarding mounting tensions domestically. 

Among those documents, a CSIS representative “assured all participants that they will continue to monitor threats and to look for evidence of attacks being planned.”

The conversations also involved concerns around the issue of free speech.

“Activists are receiving backlash, being labelled as antisemitic, and facing various consequences for shouting chants such as, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ as well as calling for ‘intifada,’” read the documents.

The word in Arabic has several meanings, one of which is to fight against oppression. However, in English, it’s most commonly associated with a series of attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups against Israel at different points throughout the conflict’s history.  

According to the documents, community leaders told officials that “heavily surveilled” activists were having their right to free speech “stifled” by authorities. 

Law officers have been recording activists as they chanted slogans at a pro-Palestinian protest in Toronto last October, according to internal emails received by RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme.

“Still legal and not looking like moving to violence,” wrote deputy commissioner Mark Flynn.

Jewish leaders have decried examples of protestors praising the Oct. 7 Hamas’ attack in various cities throughout Canada, with one incident currently under investigation by Ottawa police. 

An annual report on nationwide incidents of antisemitism compiled by B’nai Brith Canada was released on Monday, which revealed a spike in incidents since Oct. 7. 

B’nai Brith’s director of research and advocacy Richard Robertson said that the report recorded more incidents than ever before, occurring on an almost daily basis online and in public.

“The 2023 statistics make it abundantly clear when there is unrest in Israel, Jewish Canadians suffer unduly,” said Robertson during a news conference Monday. “The levels of antisemitism were already on the rise prior to the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

According to the documents, federal officials routinely heard from Jewish leaders about the need for police to intervene in “the hateful rhetoric expressed at rallies.” 

The documents specifically address the term “Zionist,” saying,  “as an overwhelming majority of Jews identify as Zionists and believe in the need for a Jewish state … calls for attacks against Zionists should be seen as calls for attacks against Jews.”

RCMP encouraged its front-line members to monitor Jewish-owned businesses and schools, not just community centres and synagogues, for targeted attacks according to one summary dated Noc. 29, 2023. 

The documents also indicate that Public Safety Canada was instructed to contact universities “to discuss the dampening of rising tensions and antisemitism on campuses.”

Since these discussions took place, pro-Palestinian protestors have set up encampents on a number of Canadian campuses to protest Israeli retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack.