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Police investigating suspected hate-motivated arson, graffiti at business in North York

Toronto police are investigating a suspected hate-motivated arson and graffiti incident that targeted a local business in North York Wednesday morning.

Around 6 a.m., Toronto police and fire crews responded to reports of smoke coming from the rear of International Delicatessen Foods (IDF) on Steeles Avenue and Keele Street.

Officials said fire crews were able to extinguish the blaze without any reported injuries.

While officials initially said the call was for a commercial fire, graffiti could be seen on the back of the building that read “Free Palestine” in photos taken by Global News at the scene.

Later in the evening, Staff Supt. Pauline Gray confirmed to reporters that officers located the graffiti outside of the building and that the investigation was now being treated as a suspected hate-motivated crime.

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Gray said the investigation will be conducted in consultation with the Ministry of the Attorney General and with the assistance of the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.

Enzo Arimini / Global News. Enzo Arimini / Global News

“To be clear, we suspect this to be motivated by hate,” said Gray, adding that based on the totality of circumstances, investigators believe it was committed with “bias or prejudice.”

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Gray told reporters this incident was a “tipping point,” and Toronto Police Service will use all of the force’s resources available to “investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for this.”

“This is not graffiti on a bus shelter. This is not lawful protests protected by constitutional right. This is a criminal act. It is violent, it is targeted, it is organized and it will receive the weight of the Toronto Police Service to do exactly what it deserves.”

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City councillor James Pasternak spoke out about the incident Wednesday afternoon. “We are shocked and appalled of the attack on IDF Foods,” Pasternak wrote in a post on social media.

“This escalation of lawlessness in Toronto must come to an end.”

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said in a statement that “incidents like this leave people feeling shaken.”

“They diminish our sense of safety and belonging. All residents of Toronto deserve to be safe and feel safe. As Mayor, let me be clear: acts of antisemitism, hate and violence are not welcome here,” said Chow.

Chow noted that her office is in contact with Toronto police as they investigate this incident.

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Investigators are asking anyone who may have information, or dash cam or video footage, to contact police at 416-808-3100, or anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), or at www.222tips.com.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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