The recent string of bio-terror scares on campus has taken a hateful turn after the Jewish Student Union (JSU) was the deliberate target of an anthrax hoax.
The student group’s University College office was evacuated October 9 after members received an envelope that bore the same return address as other hate mail letters mailed to Jewish groups in Ontario.
Police found no traces of anthrax, but the incident is being treated as a hate crime, says Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) director Bernie Farber.
“Nobody takes this lightly,” said Farber. He added that the JSU hoax was only one of 14 similar incidents in the Greater Toronto Area.
Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith Canada confirmed that police quarantined the organization’s national office in Toronto on October 19 after a receptionist opened a powder-filled envelope containing hate mail.
“[We] are very much concerned about the atmosphere of hate, which is becoming very, very pronounced,” said Dimant.
Farber said there has been no new information about the hoaxes, but he suspects “it’s some very disturbed individual,” adding that they have not ruled out the possibility that the hoaxes were committed by “Muslim extremists or white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups.”
Bruce Ralston of U of T Public Affairs said he is not aware of any campus groups other than the JSU who have been targeted for anthrax hoaxes.
“It’s an act that it’s safe to say this entire campus would find deeply offensive and abhorrent. If the police do investigate this, we’re going to do everything we can to help [them],” he said.
Meanwhile, U of T is still on alert, even though there is no evidence that Canada is a target for bio-terror.
“We’ve had a few evacuation scenarios concerning possible contaminated mail over the past few weeks,” said Ralston. “Our main concern is for our own people, making sure they’re taken care of, then restoring the affected area to normal as quickly as possible.”
JSU members could not be reached for comment.