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Sohi asks Trudeau for more security, anti-racism money to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

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Edmonton's mayor weighed in on the Israel-Hamas war in a letter made public Wednesday in which he urged a cease-fire, a release of all hostages, safe evacuation for Canadians and unrestricted humanitarian aid.

Amarjeet Sohi also requested more federal resources to calm tensions in Edmonton and other Canadian cities in the document addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was sent on Tuesday.

"The loss of lives in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the terror attack by Hamas on October 7th are heartbreaking and intolerable," Sohi wrote.

"Although the conflict is happening thousands of miles away, for many Edmontonians, it is incredibly personal."

The mayor acknowledged that while municipal leaders do not have jurisdiction in international matters, he's received more than 3,000 emails, calls and social media mentions "urging action for the safety of Palestinian and Israeli people."

Sohi's letter was sent the day before Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day cease-fire -- a diplomatic breakthrough that will free dozens of hostages held by militants as well as Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, and bring a large influx of aid to the besieged territory.

Trudeau said Wednesday he is hopeful that a truce-for-hostages deal between Israel and Hamas will set the groundwork for an eventual end to the fighting.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began after Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel launched a retaliation campaign, including airstrikes and a ground offensive, which health officials in Gaza say has killed more than 12,700 people.

In Edmonton, Sohi said there has been "a concerning escalation of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia" and that he's spoken with locals "who feel and experience targeted hate at schools, places of worship, and in public spaces."

In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, the mayor's office said it has seen "a significant rise in hate speech on social media, through conversations with stakeholders and community leaders, and from Edmontonians who have taken the time to call and email our office about this issue."

It said Sohi met with the National Council of Canadian Muslims several weeks ago to hear their concerns regarding increased hate speech and violence targetted at the community they represent.

"We have heard similar concerns firsthand from leaders and members of other racialized and religious communities, too," the statement said.

Although he didn't specify an amount, Sohi asked Trudeau to "better support" anti-racism initiatives across Canada, including Edmonton.

While speaking with reporters at city hall, Sohi said money is needed to upgrade security at places of worship and to improve intercultural and mental health programs.

"There is so much pain and trauma that has been triggered by this conflict, both for the Jewish and Palestinian communities, and the broader Muslim community and we need to support each other," he said.

A vigil was held at the University of Alberta on Tuesday night where the names of victims were read aloud.

On Wednesday night, a Jewish-led vigil was planned near the Alberta legislature to protest the screening inside of a film called Bearing Witness, which includes graphic images of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

In the days following that attack, Edmonton police increased patrols around places frequented by members of the Jewish community, but said no direct threats had been received.

CTV News Edmonton reached out to police Wednesday for an update on that situation.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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