Annex JCC reopens after receiving bomb threat
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, March 7, 2017 11:14AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 7, 2017 3:10PM EST
A Jewish centre in the city’s Annex neighbourhood has reopened after it was evacuated due to a threatening phone call on Tuesday morning.
Police said someone at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, located at 750 Spadina Avenue, received a call threatening them just after 10 a.m.
Centre executive director Ellen Cole told CTV News Toronto the call was a bomb threat, and staff immediately snapped into action.
“Protocol was to dial 911, pull the alarm and evacuate the building,” Cole said. She said about 600 people, including many children, were inside the building at the time the threat was made.
The board president of the Downtown Jewish Day School located inside the building said they moved their students to a “safe alternative location.”
The centre was cleared so quickly that several occupants were forced to flee without wearing all of their clothes, or in one case, even shoes.
TTC buses were brought in to house them, along with evacuated staff and students.
The intersection of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue was already closed due to a planned protest in the area. It was reopened to pedestrian traffic at 12:20 p.m. The community centre was opened a few minutes later.
Officers and firefighters searched the building and the surrounding area for any suspicious items but later said none were found.
Police Supt. Neil Corrigan said that “in light of recent events around the world, we felt that out of an abundance of caution it was more than appropriate to ensure everyone’s safety,” and close the entire area down.
He said the service was “very concerned” that similar threats were sent to Jewish centres in the United States and one in London, Ont.
“It deeply saddens me that some people in the community feel that violence is a means to an end,” Corrigan said.
Area councilor Joe Cressy said he was just relieved that everyone followed protocol and nobody was hurt.
"The JCC was evacuated in under seven minutes," Cressy said at the scene as the centre reopened. "We couldn't evacuate City Hall in seven minutes."
The 127 Davenport bus and Spadina streetcars were rerouted to avoid the area. Subway service to Spadina Station continued normally.
Nearby Howlett Academy was also put into lockdown.
“It is highly unfortunate,” Cole said of the incident. “It’s (meant)to sow fear and anxiety, and we stand together as a community and we know we will all be strong together.”
Speaking at the scene, Toronto Mayor John Tory said threats like the one received on Tuesday should not make anyone feel like they have to change the way they live their lives.
“The real message we have to send out from today – we must not let the events and the trends and the things that are going on divide us. We want people to know that we can’t let this take over any part of how we live or the discourse here.”