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Editorial: Not OK

N. Anti-vaccine protesters a
Kaye Miller was a vendor at the Roberts Creek Community Association Annual Christmas Craft Fair – he stepped outside to take this shot of the protesters.

I said in my last editorial I would lay low with the opinions for a while. That lasted exactly a week.

My last major story assignment on Bowen was a three-part profile of the island’s Jewish community. A Jewish islander had had an antisemitic encounter on the island last summer and the Jewish community decided to respond with education and awareness. They built a driftwood menorah to include in the December’s festival of trees, re-listed their ‘formally informal’ group in the newspaper and contacted me about writing some stories. But even the decision to step forward – to be publicly Jewish – was met with trepidation among community members. Even in an “everybody knows everybody” town like Bowen. 

One son of Holocaust survivors – he himself was born in a refugee camp but raised in Montreal – said his mother’s words, every time he left the house as a child, were “be careful.” 

“Fear was in the air that we breathed in our house. They didn’t speak about it that much. But it was there all the time. I always knew it,” he said. 

The story was echoed again and again as I spoke with other Jewish islanders. 

It is in the context of this legacy of centuries of antisemitism and most recently of the Holocaust that last weekend’s weaponization of the Yellow Star here on the Coast is so gravely inappropriate. We have neighbours and friends who grew up without grandparents, aunts or uncles – they have no family tree. Their parents lost everyone and the trauma passed onto their kids.  

And antisemitism isn’t just in the past – Statistics Canada data shows that between 2017 and 2019, police-reported hate crimes against Jewish people made up nearly half of the religion-based hate crimes in Canada – more than any other religion.

There’s good reason for caution but there shouldn’t have to be.

So it’s in times when there’s even a hint of bigotry – of people made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in their own communities – that the rest of us need to step forward to say and show, no, that is not OK. We stand with you. You’re safe here. 

Gladly, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happened. 

– Bronwyn Beairsto