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Toronto councillor speaks out after receiving ‘highly-offensive, profanity-laced’ voicemail

A Toronto city councillor is speaking out after an individual called his constituency office and left an antisemitic voicemail message that is now being investigated by police.

The incident happened on March 9.

North York Coun. James Pasternak tells CP24 that the “highly-offensive, profanity-laced” message was left on the voicemail of his constituency office, prompting staff members to contact police.

On Tuesday, police announced the arrest of a Markham man in connection with the incident, which they say is being investigated as a suspected hate-motivated offence.

“As we do with anything we think is of a criminal nature, we sent it off to police and let them decide whether it meets the threshold and that’s exactly what my staff did,” he said.

“Our office, my team, like anybody else in the city, want to go about the daily lives, without hate, without harassment, without bullying, just to go about our daily lives in peace and security so we felt that that was being violated and we passed that on (to authorities.)”

There has been a documented rise in hate crimes in Toronto since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

Pasternak said that while the threats were sent via voicemail, they are still just as concerning and have left him bewildered.

“You really wonder, you know, the direction of the city. Toronto has always been a safe place where people come from all over the world to escape hate and conflict zones and we prided ourselves as a safe city where you could live without harassment and hate. Sadly, that’s changing,” he said.

The councillor’s executive assistant Jenya Drazman told CP24 in an email that they are also “working with corporate security” to address the matter.

Instead of being fearful or intimidated in the face of what happened, Pasternak urged members of the community to be “vigilant.”

“Don’t look for trouble. But don’t be intimidated. Don’t let the mob win,” he said.

“People get whipped up in that and get emotional and get hateful, and that is the great threat that we’re facing in this city. As I said, historically, (Toronto) has always been a safe city where people can go about their daily lives and peace and security, and we want to keep it that way.”

A suspect, identified as 64-year-old Markham resident Mehboob Rajwani, is charged with uttering threats, indecent communication, and criminal harassment in connection with the incident.

“In a post on X, Pasternak said that he would also be following up with Mayor Olivia Chow and city staff to review the implementation of a motion that asks the Toronto Police Services Board to establish community safety zones around places of worship, and cultural and religious daycares and schools that are recognized as a potential target for hate.