Quebec's federation of university students has apologized for the appearance of Nazi salutes at recent demonstrations after prominent Jewish organizations condemned protesters' use of the gesture.
Martine Desjardins, president of the federation, said the salute, which some protesters have been using to mock Montreal police for alleged brutality, doesn't "represent the values of Quebec and Canada."
"We think it was an error in judgment that they used that sign," she said.
The apology came last night, hours after B'nai Brith Canada publicly denounced the appearance of the gesture at some of Quebec's student protests.
In addition to the salute, chanting crowds have referred to local police officers as the "SS," calling them fascists and comparing them to Nazi police.
Swastikas have also appeared on anti-police pamphlets being distributed.
While the gestures are meant as an insult to police — and not as any expression of support for Nazism —Jewish organizations said that's no excuse.
B'nai Brith Canada says the action defiles the memory of those who died in the Holocaust, of those who survived, and of those who fought against the Nazis in the Second World War.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, CEO Frank Dimant said students should put a stop to using the gesture immediately.
"We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters that has outraged the Jewish community and demonstrated just how low the level of public debate has fallen on the streets of Montreal," Dimant also said, in a statement issued Tuesday.
"The actions of these protesters, whether for the purposes of deriding Montreal police or drawing attention to their cause, defile the memory of the Holocaust and remind us just how quickly anti-Semitism and the manifestations of hate can venture their way into our public discourse."
The events in question have occurred at multiple recent protests.
But B'nai Brith noted that it was issuing its statement Tuesday, on what would have been the 83rd birthday of Holocaust victim and famous diary author Anne Frank.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also says the decision to use that gesture — in the current context — speaks to a lack of historical understanding.
Photos of the Nazi-themed protests have been circulating on social-networking sites, causing some shock and outrage.
The photos have been posted on the Internet in recent days, sometimes without context, leaving viewers puzzled about why Montreal protesters are using the salute.
In Nazi Germany, the Schutzstaffel, or protection squadron, was a paramilitary organization intensely loyal to Adolf Hitler. It was responsible for many of the war crimes committed in the Third Reich.