Montreal police are investigating a chilling video in which a man wearing a Joker mask threatens to kill "one Arab a week."
"As of next week, there will be murders all across Quebec," he says in a Quebecois-sounding accent. In the background, a baby is wailing. "We will eliminate all of them, one by one. Islam has harmed us enough." The video has since been deleted.
Update: Montreal police have made an arrest in the case.
Referencing the Paris attack, the unidentified male claims he's recruited more than ten others to take part in the crime spree. "I will fire a bullet in the head of one Arab per week, starting next week," he says, brandishing a handgun, although it's not known if it is real or fake. "I guarantee you that I am serious."
Montreal police spokesperson Laurent Gingras told VICE News his team had yet to determine whether the man was under their jurisdiction. "If you make threats on social networks or on the web, there are very concrete consequences in the real world, the criminal code allows us to press charges against people who do things like this," Gingras said.
Quebec provincial police doesn't confirm or deny ongoing investigations, but told VICE News they had also been contacted about the video. "All complaints are taken seriously," said Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Mélanie Desmarais.
Imam Adil Charkaoui, head of the Quebec collective against Islamophobia (CQCI), denounced the clip on the group's Facebook page. "The CQCI is asking the community to remain calm, to not give in to fear and to report any suspicious behaviour to authorities," he wrote in French.
"We don't really know if this is a prankster, we could take it lightly," Charkaoui said in an interview. But in light of recent events, he said his group opted to get authorities involved.
The threat comes amidst a climate of increased Islamophobia in Canada. This week, a Peterborough mosque was torched, a Toronto woman was assaulted and several other cases of threats and harassment were reported.
In Quebec, where the connection to France is strongest and the debate over a proposed charter of secular values has increased religious tensions, the backlash has been particularly strong.
A Facebook page for the Quebec branch of anti-Muslim group PEGIDA has been a forum for some exceptionally hateful comments, with one user posting a list of Montreal-area mosques and prompting people to "act." PEGIDA eventually dissociated itself from the user and the comment was deleted.
Anti-refugee sentiment has also surged, leading one Quebec group to petition against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plan to let in 25,000 Syrian refugees. "It's unreasonable and dangerous, both in the short and long term, to let them in," wrote one of the supporters. "They only want to invade us so that later we'll become an Islamic state," wrote another. At press time, the petition had gathered more than 70,000 signatories.
The effort was countered by a pro-refugee petition, which now counts nearly 45,000 signatures.
Hanadi Saad, founder of women support group Justice Femme, said people are conflating the issues. "It's like a war has been declared, we're mixing everything up."
Since the Paris attacks, she said her organization has dealt with an increase in reports of Islamophobic attacks. "People are terrorized," she says.
The women who call in tell her they're being harassed both online and on the street; some are even receiving death threats. "I feel like I'm putting out fires," Saad said. The complaints she fields often don't end up with police, she added, due to the perception that authorities don't take them seriously.
"Some police still don't know how to handle these files, but it's urgent that they devote people to acting on this," said Saad.
While Charkaoui said he feels this particular video threat was dealt with adequately, he believes police need to develop a better understanding of what defines a hate crime, and devote a unit to this type of offence.
He said police will process the complaints, but will set aside the racial and religious discrimination that sets them apart from other assault or harassment incidents. "The hate crime aspect isn't retained," Charkaoui told VICE. "There needs to be better training or increased sensibility, because this isn't a crime like others."
Follow Brigitte Noel on Twitter: @Brige_Noel