Recently in Canada, the entirely uncontroversial Jewish festival of Chanukah (Hebrew School spelling) has turned into municipal controversies (Moncton, Calgary) about Hannukah. And the moral wobble of public bodies, and moral challenge it presents to Canadians, landed with a thud Monday morning in Winnipeg.

The last thing anybody expected was a measured but firm statement from Coun. Sherri Rollins denouncing a weekend slight-of-hand by the City, when they made the giant steel seasonal menorah disappear from the courtyard.

“Hannukiah being removed in front of Winnipeg City Hall is wrong’, read the headline.

“I just learned from the CAO that together with the Winnipeg Police Services a decision was made to remove the City Hall Hannukiah during the festival of lights on Saturday.” Rollins, who is Jewish, used the specific Hebrew term for the 9 stem candelabrum.

“Denying and hiding religious symbols is a manner of expressing anti-Semitism”, she continued. “If the threat to the Hannukiah is so real – Why did Winnipeg Police Services or the City of Winnipeg not make that clear to either the Jewish community or in a security briefing to council?… what was so different from this week-end protest than the past months?”

“The Jewish community …. deserve to know if there is an increased threat.”

Rollins represents the southern part of the downtown area but not City Hall at 510 Main Street. That address is represented by Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos, who has not said a word.

Among the support voiced for Rollins were comments such as:

“Thank you for blowing the whistle on this. I’m sorry you work with cowards who simply find it easier to abandon the Jewish community than to stand up for the right thing.”

“Removing it sends a horrific message to the Jewish folks of Winnipeg while empowering the Palestinian flag carrying supporters of Hamas here in Winnipeg. This is horrific!” (About 150 individuals presented themselves in the courtyard on October 7 to praise the terror attack as ‘resistence’; they were denounced by Mayor Scott Gillingham and Police Chief Danny Smyth.)

By mid-afternoon, rookie Council member Evan Duncan also criticized the decision:

“It is of utmost importance to maintain peace and calm throughout the community. However, I disagree with the decision to remove the Menorah at City Hall for any period of time.”

Duncan’s stand also received support online, including from a leading Jewish philanthropist.

“thank you for your principled approach  who authorized the removal ?” asked Sandy Shindleman, the chair of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA).

A statement issued by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg on Twitter around the same time as Duncan’s tweet sidestepped Shindleman’s question:

“It was a proactive step to safeguard the menorah from potential damage amid gatherings,” it said. “Whenever groups gather there is a chance of property damage, either by mistake or by malice. We appreciate the measures taken to protect this symbol…”

This didn’t turn down the heat on City Hall- and actually created a problem for the Federation, which the media portrays as representing the Jewish community at large but only represents their 1300 donors- and does not allow anyone who has not donated to be a Board member.

We asked, “Sandy – do you think the Federation statement today satisfied the legitimate concerns that have been expressed? It sounds like they’re making excuses to save somebody’s hide.”

Shindleman, a major donor to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, replied “Agree”.

Late on Monday, Gillingham was forced to issue his own statement that failed to quell the controversy.

Pronouncing that “City Hall proudly displays at least 3 menorahs every year”, his explanation for the removal was “we were informed of rallies planned for the City Hall courtyard, (and) the decision to temporarily move the courtyard menorah into the Council building for the duration of these events was made after consultation with police.” reported further details from Gillingham: “we had word that there were going to be two rallies within a 24-hour timespan of pro-Palestinian rallies. So, just out of an abundance of caution, we moved the (hanukkiah) inside of city hall… There was no definitive threat, it was just precautionary.”

The blowback online was immediate – and pointed out the cowardice of City officials. A former cop on the gang unit tweeted,

“The correct answer was to leave as originally planned & ensure police protect the hanukkiah. When protests are no longer peaceful, they are no longer ‘legal’. Dissidents should never be allowed dictate & impose their will”

The Mayor’s statement also admitted, “in our efforts to be cautious, we missed an important step- consulting with the Jewish community prior to making the decision. This oversight was not intentional, but it is something I apologize for.”

So there wasn’t an actual threat.

No one asked a single Jew what they thought.

And someone from the police spoke with the CAO – Michael Jack, who no one in the media wants to name – and they concluded it was appropriate to hide the giant steel menorah – “to avoid any potential conflict,” according to Gillingham – instead of taking steps to protect public property.


A former City Hall insider, who identifies in relation to the Middle East conflict as pro-Palestinian, agrees this fiasco needs a full airing out and actual accountability.

“This is outrageous,” insists Aaron McDowell, a former Executive Assistant in Mynarski ward.

“This is not about the government of Israel. You hide the menorah, you are insulting the entire Jewish base globally. Just because I hate Justin Trudeau doesn’t mean I’m anti-Canadian. I’m against the government of the day. Me hating Netanyahu doesn’t mean I hate Jews or Israelis. Taking down the menorah in front of 510 Main Street- our City Hall – is an insult to the Jewish faith across the world, never mind the city of Winnipeg. And I find it outrageous.”

McDowell says there are important procedural details that Gillingham- and, as we noted in our question to Sandy Shindleman, the Jewish Federation – have not addressed:

“The Manager of Protocol for the CAO’s office ultimately signs off on this, and that is a fact. Everybody knows that. If flags go to half-mast- Protocol. Christmas tree going up- Protocoal Pictures taken in front of city hall- Protocol.”

In McDowell’s dozen years of experience at City Hall, “Nothing happens at 510 Main, both buildings, unless it goes through Protocol.”

He concludes that, “Somewhere in 510 Main in somebody’s office, there was a conversation where they were talking about a war (in Gaza), and somebody said, ‘take down the menorah’ and then somebody did it.”

“So the question is, HOW did this happen? It’s offensive to the Jewish community across the world. It’s stunning that someone, in a conversation somewhere in Winnipeg City Hall, someone said “we think this way.””

Maybe Coun. Rollins or Coun. Duncan can ask.

( See alsoCancel Culture Comes For Izzy Asper- What CBC Refused To Tell You )


Marty Gold is the only reporter in Winnipeg covering antisemitism. This work is NOT funded by any government subsidies and never will be.

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