Jewish students at the University of Winnipeg say they are on edge following the airing of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the school’s radio station, a student representative said.

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BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Sophie Hershfield, a student representative for Hillel Winnipeg at the U of W, says Jewish students are concerned about rising anti-Semitism.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sophie Hershfield, a student representative for Hillel Winnipeg at the U of W, says Jewish students are concerned about rising anti-Semitism.

Jewish students at the University of Winnipeg say they are on edge following the airing of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the school’s radio station, a student representative said.

"It was blatantly anti-Semitic and could potentially pose a threat for Jewish students on campus," said Sophie Hershfield, a student representative at University of Winnipeg for Hillel Winnipeg, a branch of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

CKUW 95.9 FM’s program Where Angels Fear to Tread interviewed Toronto conspiracy theorist Sydney White on Nov. 11. During the broadcast, White repeated numerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and tropes.

The host of the program — April Cherpaw — did not challenge or disagree with White’s claims.

"There have been these kinds of incidents in the past, so I think that maybe left people a little more concerned this time around," Hershfield said.

"There was an incident last year (at U of W) where graffiti was going up that said, ‘99 per cent of the one per cent is Jewish.’ It also had a link to this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory website that was similar to things said on-air. So I know Jewish students were concerned that this was popping up again on campus."

She went on to say the university has dealt with on-campus anti-Semitism well in the past, which is reassuring for students. Nonetheless, she continued, the rise of anti-Semitism in the country — with 2016 being the worst recorded year, according to B’nai Brith Canada — has left some nervous. According to B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audit of anti-Jewish incidents, 2016 was a record setting year in the country, with 1,728 acts of anti-Semitism.

That broke the record of 1,627 set in 2014.

Research released by Statistics Canada Tuesday showed an increase in police-reported anti-Semitic hate crime nationally and in Manitoba.

Anti-Jewish hate crime was the most common form to be reported by police last year, with 221 incidents across Canada and nine in Manitoba. In 2015, there were only two anti-Semitic hate crimes reported by police in the province.

Winnipeg has had a string of anti-Semitic incidents in 2017.

In January, Winnipeg police investigated an incident in which a rock was painted with anti-Semitic statements and left outside a family’s home.

In February, a swastika and an anti-Semitic message was carved into fresh snow in the St. Vital neighbourhood. In addition, Mayor Brian Bowman denounced as "disturbing" anti-Semitic graffiti found on a number of city benches and sidewalks in August.

"Generally things have been dealt with pretty well, I think. But with incidents popping up more often, with 2016 being the worst year for anti-Semitism in Canada, there has been some concern that this stuff is on the rise," Hershfield said.

"Some people are slightly more on-edge than usual and hyper-aware of these things because of the spike in incidents. I think there’s been a bit of a growing fear amongst young people I’ve spoken to about anti-Semitism in Winnipeg. I think people still feel generally safe, just maybe not as safe as they used to."

In response to the broadcasting of anti-Semitic content on the station, CKUW suspended Cherpaw and her show for six weeks. She also stepped down from the station’s board of directors. B’nai Brith Canada commended the decision.

A spokesman for the Jewish service organization will appear on-air at the station to discuss the incident and the rise of anti-Semitism.

Despite the six week suspension, however, the station has made clear that after going through an internal process Cherpaw may be welcomed back onto the air. CKUW is partly funded by mandatory student fees transferred from the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.

"I want to clarify that although the CKUW is often a partner of the UWSA, it is a separate organization. The UWSA does not have any influence over CKUW’s operations or programming," wrote Laura Garinger, the student association president.

"To be clear, the UWSA does not accept this sort of speech in our spaces or from our groups. It’s very unfortunate to hear about this sort of discussion happening on campus."

CKUW is a non-commercial, university-based, volunteer-run station.

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Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
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Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.