Man arrested over racist vandalism spree in Toronto

Nine incidents found to have ‘documented’ racial, ethnic and religious bias, investigators say.

A 46-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a series of racially and ethnically motivated mischief incidents in Toronto’s north end that have left six buildings and 10 vehicles damaged, according to police.

The man from Etobicoke has been charged with five counts of mischief. He is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

“We believe that he was involved in a number of hate-motivated incidents that we had documented and counted in these count errors,” Constable David Hopkinson said on Tuesday.

The vandalism spree started on 2 August, when residents in a mostly black community began reporting that their homes and cars had been damaged by vandals. The crimes were motivated by “racial, ethnic and religious bias”, Hopkinson said.

Police investigated more than 500 reports over seven weeks of offences that included racial and ethnic slurs directed at residents and vandalism, including nails, broken windows and spray paint. In total, Hopkinson said the crimes have cost residents and businesses in the area $140,000.

Hopkinson said the incidents ended at the end of August but he did not know when the man’s arrest was made.

Police received “several tips from the public”, and they are following up on several other leads, Hopkinson said.

On Tuesday, the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, used social media to call for a better awareness of racism.

“I want to call for everyone to step up and help us make Toronto a place where people feel safe,” Tory wrote in a tweet. “If you see something, say something.”

Five months into the year, racism, prejudice and bias are among the most prevalent crimes in Canada, according to RCMP data released in March.

That report found that in the previous year, there were 700 fewer racist incidents reported to police than in 2016. Since 2000, the RCMP says there were almost 29,500 racist incidents.

The first Muslim mayor of a Canadian city, Tory has tried to bridge a gap between Toronto and Muslims in the city.

The mayor is Muslim and born to Bangladeshi immigrants. His mother was Irish and a large part of his election campaign was built around Islamophobia, a factor that contributed to him securing 54% of the vote.

Tory was confronted by a heckler on 14 July, who repeatedly interrupted him at an interfaith service. Tory spoke about the two Canadians killed on 7 July 2017 during the attack on a mosque in Quebec City.

“My family is deeply Canadian, and our history and our culture is a part of us,” he said. “But our immigrant experience and our Canadian heritage are also part of who we are.”

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