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Doug Ford suggests immigrants behind Jewish school shooting

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested immigrants are to blame for the shooting of an empty Jewish school in Toronto over the weekend, despite police saying they have little information on the suspects.

Opposition parties quickly denounced Ford's comments and demanded an apology.

Toronto police have said two suspects fired shots shortly before 5 a.m. last Saturday at Bais Chaya Mushka Elementary School and that no one was injured, though there was damage to the building.

Ford said the perpetrators must be caught and thrown in jail.

He said people should not come to Canada if they're "going to start terrorizing neighbourhoods like this."

"You're bringing your problems from everywhere else in the world, you're bringing it to Ontario, and you're going after other Canadians, as the prime minister said: unacceptable," Ford said at an unrelated event in Toronto on Thursday.

"I got an idea: before you plan on moving to Canada, don't come to Canada if you're going to start terrorizing neighbourhoods like this. Simple as that. You want to come to Canada? You want to be a resident of Ontario? You get along with everyone."

Later Thursday, Ford said on social media that those who want to call Ontario home would "always be welcome."

"My comments today meant to stress that there is more that unites us than divides us," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Police said its hate crime unit is involved in the school shooting investigation, but that it is too early to say if the shooting was motivated by hate or antisemitism. They have not arrested anyone yet nor have they identified any suspects. The probe remains ongoing.

Ford said the province will throw "every single resource" at fighting antisemitism and all other forms of hate.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Ford's comments were racist.

"At a time when we need political leaders of all stripes to do everything they can to bring people together and foster safety, the premier has chosen to fan the flames of xenophobia and hate," she said.

"Painting every single immigrant in the most diverse province in the country with this brush does nothing to keep Ontario's Jewish community safe at a time when they need it the most."

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."

It 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 was exonerated a few months ago after a jury found him not guilty.

Zameer, who was with his pregnant wife and two-year-old son at the time, testified he didn't know Northrup and his partner -- who were both in plain clothes -- were police officers. He testified he tried to escape as safely as possible from what he believed to be 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 on 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."

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."'

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said the city has brought together police, community leaders and local councillors to conduct "safety walks" as a pilot project to examine the surroundings of places of worship and schools.

"So whether it's shatterproof glass, fencing, lighting, or trimming of bushes, or cameras, we assist because we have the knowledge, we know what's the best practices," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.

- with files from Sammy Hudes.

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