“We are here today because of what we share, which is our common humanity,” said Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal human rights lawyer, on Sunday. “We cannot take sides when it comes to hate. We cannot be bystanders when we are faced with hate.”

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Ten mothers, grandmothers and community leaders representing the diversity that is Montreal — Black, white and Asian, Jewish and Muslim, younger and older — gathered Sunday in one of Montreal’s most multicultural and multiracial neighbourhoods and, with grace and eloquence, spoke out powerfully against acts of hate and violence that threaten safety and social cohesion in a city of love.

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Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations brought them together at the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs in Côte-des-Neiges: They were there to denounce violence and hate directed against the Jewish and the Muslim community and to also condemn gun violence and all forms of racism.

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Demonstrations and protests have marked the weeks since an attack Oct. 7 by Hamas on southern Israel Israel in which at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 kidnapped, along with attacks on Jewish institutions, including two attacks on the Yeshiva Gedola School on Deacon Rd.  Tensions have also spiked on university campuses.

“Women deal with power and violence differently and can be more effective in conflict resolution,” Niemi said. “In addition, being mothers and grandmothers can help reach people — especially men who are mostly the authors of hate crimes — at the affective and emotional level in a different and deeper way.”

Farida Mohammed, president of the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said: “We understand the anger that is out there in our communities. … People are seeing horrible things happening in other parts of the world and they worry about the security of their families.”

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Anger should be channelled in proper ways to help bring about change that is lasting and beneficial in the long run, she said. But “when anger turns to hate, it is not good for the health and well-being of Montrealers in general.”

What she would say to whoever attacked Yeshiva Gedola, she said, is: “When you turn that anger into hate and do hateful acts, then you are being selfish. You are venting your anger in an unacceptable way.

“I want to say to that person that, when you have that much anger, you need to talk to your family or friends or seek professional help because you cannot turn that anger into harmful acts.”

Mélissa Rina Shriqui, a board member of Temple Emanu-El–Beth Sholom, said it is not up to Jews to fight anti-Semitism alone, just as it is not up to Muslims alone to fight Islamophobia. “This can only create more discord. This can only create more intolerance, where everybody is on edge,” she said.

This cycle will break “only when we agree it is not only condemning this act, but condemning the encouragement of these acts.”

Said Sharon Nelson, first vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Montreal: “We are a diverse community. We can have disagreements and we can have our opinions.

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“But terrorist acts of violence, particularly in schools and on university campuses, are not acceptable or warranted — and as shown today, we can come together to support each other and to focus on the fact we are stronger together than we are apart.”

Nida Quirapas, president of the Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs and host of press conference, said: “We are all the same human beings.

“The foundation of intolerance is fear of the unknown — and only through education will that fear and mistrust be overcome.”

Amal Elsana Alhjooj, founding executive director of the organization Promoting Leadership for Empowerment Development and Justice, said she wants Montreal to be a place where Jewish friends can walk wearing a kippot without being called names and Muslim friends can wear head scarves without being insulted.

It is important for people to be able to express their ideas peacefully and to protest peacefully, she said. Montreal should be “a place of safety, with no tolerance for violent acts,” she said. As a Muslim, she said what she’d say to whoever attacked Yeshiva Gedola is “channel your anger.”

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“There are ways to channel anger. These acts are not representing us as a religion or women or a society in Montreal and we denounce these acts,” Alhjooj said.

“We are here today because of what we share, which is our common humanity,” said Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal human rights lawyer, author and and professor. Events in the Middle East “have motivated anger,” she said. “When we are angry, I remind myself that there are fundamental limits to what our society tolerates. We cannot take sides when it comes to hate. We cannot be bystanders when we are faced with hate.”

Eliadis said she sees students who are afraid to speak out — afraid of being attacked or cancelled or doxed, having their confidential information made public. “This is not acceptable.”

Anyone who witnesses hate must call 911, Eliadis said. “The right to free assembly does not protect violent speech and hate speech. … These acts of violence have no place in our society and none of them speak for any of us.”

We must speak out to show anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are not acceptable, said Luzviminda Mazzone, president of the Filipino Canadian Associations of Quebec. She has many Jewish friends, she said, “and I feel the pain of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who lost loved ones — and for the hostages,”

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The Montreal Council of Women is concerned about use of hate speech and hate crimes, said president Linda Serpone, and working to counter the phenomenon through education and policy initiatives. It is important to speak out against disinformation, lies and innuendo, she said, and women have a tremendous role to play in fostering peace in our communities.

Joan Lee, president of the West Island Black Community Association, said all children have the right to go to school and be safe … and that I as a mother don’t have to worry if my children are going to come home safe.

Schools must be sanctuaries, said Gemma Raeburn-Baynes, president of the Gemstar/Playmas Montreal Cultural Association, and every child deserves the right to learn and grow in an environment that fosters empathy and respect for differences.

“In these challenging times, it is important to come together to address the rising tide of hate, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism that threatens the very fabric of our diverse community.”

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