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Toronto police investigating demonstration outside of Mount Sinai Hospital after Trudeau calls it 'reprehensible' antisemitism

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling a demonstration – now under police investigation – outside of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital on Monday a "reprehensible" display of antisemitism.

Toronto police confirmed they are investigating “several incidents” that took place in front of the downtown hospital, which was founded by the Jewish community in Toronto. 

In an internal email sent to hospital staff Tuesday, obtained by CTV News Toronto, Mount Sinai President and CEO Dr. Gary Newton said participants climbed scaffolding on the exterior of the building during a demonstration on University Avenue Monday night.

In response, the police force is increasing its presence along hospital row while Mount Sinai and Hennick Bridgepoint are ramping up their security. Newton also said the hospital’s University Avenue entrance will be closed after 6 p.m. on weekdays and entirely on weekends.

For their part, the organizers of the protest say that the hospital wasn’t being targeted and just happens to be along a “regular rally route” that they take to get to the U.S. consulate. 

“Interfering with the operations of a hospital is not acceptable,” Toronto police said in a statement.

“As we have said before, officers use their discretion during large crowd demonstrations and even if arrests are not deemed safe to make at the time, investigations will continue and charges can be laid at a later date.”

On Tuesday, Trudeau posted a statement on X, formerly Twitter, in response to the protest. “Hospitals are places for treatment and care, not protests and intimidation,” he said.

“I strongly condemn this display of antisemitism. In Toronto and across Canada, we stand with Jewish communities against this hate.”

The protest outside Mount Sinai was just the latest in a series of demonstrations related to the Israel-Hamas war.

Police confirmed last month that they have responded to 343 demonstrations locally since the onset of the war on Oct. 7. The total cost associated with the police response to the protests, as well as the additional patrols in some neighbourhoods, has been pegged at $7.5 million.

'You broke the law'

Premier Doug Ford was asked about the demonstration at an event on Tuesday and made reference to the fact that protesting outside of a hospital is illegal in Canada.

The federal government introduced Bill C-3 in 2021, which amended the Criminal Code to protect health-care workers by making it illegal to intimidate or obstruct access to a health-care service.

“Do not break the law because that’s exactly what happened. You broke the law,” Ford said. “But even without the law, you have to have an ounce of decency.”

The protest outside Mount Sinai on Monday night has been widely condemned by a number of groups, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs which called the tactics employed by some demonstrators “gross, illegal and anti-Semitic” in a post to X.

Police, for their part, are urging anyone who witnessed the events Monday evening or who experienced harassment to contact investigators.

Speaking with Newstalk 1010 on Tuesday, emergency room physician Dr. Raghu Venugopal said that when he heard what was happening he went down to hospital row with a sign that read, “Leave Mount Sinai Alone.” While he said the protesters had moved on by the time he arrived, it felt important to remind people of the fact that “hospitals are protected grounds, legally in our country.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow also responded to the news, describing Mount Sinai as a "sanctuary" for all, including her own family.

"My father passed there, both my late husband and I had cancer treatments there," Chow wrote in a statement on X. "Targeting Jewish institutions is antisemitic and hate has no place in our city."

Members of Parliament Melissa Lanstman and Marco Mendicino took to social media, posting an image of an individual waving a flag of Palestine, standing on top of the Mount Sinai Hospital entrance, along with a video of a group loudly chanting while one member jumped over a construction barrier at the front of the hospital.

“The mob chose patients, their families, nurses, doctors and all those helping to save lives inside of a hospital. They chose Jews, because it’s Mount Sinai Hospital,” Lanstman wrote. 

The organizers respond

In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Toronto4Palestine said it is “shameful” to see the Prime Minister and other elected officials call their “peaceful protest” antisemitic.

“[Mount Sinai hospital] just happens to be along our regular rally route, which we pass by on a usual basis, as we head to rally in front of the U.S. consulate,” the statement reads in part. The consulate is down University Avenue from the hospital, just south of Dundas Street.

“The irony is that portraying the raising of the Palestinian flag as a hate-motivated act of antisemitism is its self-perpetuating anti-Palestinian racism,” the statement later says. 

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