Federation CJA reports incident at Chez Benny Express

The damage at Chez Benny Express.

Last week the Montreal police arson squad began looking into a vandalism incident at the Kosher restaurant Chez Benny Express in St. Laurent.

Federation CJA tweeted Monday afternoon that a possible anti-Semitic hate crime had taken place there.

"Federation CJA and our advocacy agent CIJA are in contact with the SPVM and the owners of Chez Benny Express following an incident targeting the Ville St-Laurent restaurant," says the tweet. "Federation CJA security was immediately on the scene and police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime."

At 4:10 p.m. Monday, Peter Subissati, Associate Director, Communications and Marketing (Quebec) for CIJA, e-mailed The Suburban: "We are still waiting for additional information from the SPVM, which is still investigating the incident. Nothing further to report beyond what Federation CJA tweeted a short while ago."

One source in the area of the St. Louis Shopping Centre said he believes someone tried to burn down the restaurant as an act of "sabotage," but he knew nothing more.

Later Monday, B'nai Brith Canada provided more detail, saying the incident took place Sunday night.

"Unknown assailants shattered the front door of Chez Benny in Ville Saint-Laurent with a rock, then attempted to light a fire, which failed to catch due to a lack of flammable material," says the organization's statement. "There was no evidence of any attempt to take money or valuables from the restaurant. No one was in the restaurant at the time of the incident. B’nai Brith has spoken to owner Mike Assedo, who says that he hopes to be able to re-open on Wednesday. Assedo also called on anyone who may have been in the area and witnessed the vandalism or saw something suspicious to contact police."

“It has been a difficult month and a half for Jews across Canada, so people are naturally on edge following this attack,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We thank our friends at SPVM for their swift work, and will do anything possible to assist with the investigation.”

The SPVM's Caroline Chèvrefils told The Suburban Tuesday morning that the incident took place somewhere between 10:30 p.m. Sunday and the time the call to police was made at 7:50 a.m. Monday, and there were no witnesses. There were traces of accelerant, and the investigation has been handed over to the arson unit.

Christopher Skeete, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, reacted to the original Suburban report via Twitter.

"I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again," Skeete wrote. "Hate will receive no quarter in Québec. I stand with the Jewish community in denouncing anti-Semitism."

Benoit Charette, the Minister Responsible for the Fight Against Racism, was among those liking Skeete's tweet.

This is a developing story.

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