Police in Toronto, Ontario might charge a group of anti-Muslim protesters for violating hate crime laws.
A group with placards stating “Say No to Islam” was standing outside of Toronto’s Masjid mosque on Friday, and police say they received multiple complaints about the demonstration from some in the mosque and others who weren’t present.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, a former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, criticized the protest, calling it “Islamophobia” in a Tweet:
Islamophobia has NO place in our city. I’ve visited Masjid Toronto many times & denounce all acts of hatred towards our Muslim citizens.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) February 17, 2017
Constable Allyson Douglas-Cook told CBC News Saturday that the incident is being examined by police as a potential hate crime. The police constable claimed that there is a “fine line” between free speech and breaching hate crime laws but refused to specify what constitutes that distinction, adding, “That’s a conversation we’ve been having all day.”
The investigators plan to speak to witnesses, take statements and collect evidence if necessary. Mosque spokesman Abdul-Basit Khan claimed the protest was the worst he has seen since the mosque was built 15 years ago.
“You’re used to seeing this kind of vitriol in the comments sections of newspapers or online. You don’t necessarily see it in person. So that’s what was surprising about yesterday,” he said. “Especially in light of Quebec City…”
The event came just days after a Toronto-area Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) officially tabled a motion in the Canadian House of Commons that could potentially make “Islamophobia” another hate crime. Debate on Iqra Khalid’s motion began last Wednesday, with only the opposition Conservatives refusing to endorse the potential legislation because they say the definition of “Islamophobia” is too flexible and not even spelled-out in the motion.
Critics are wondering why an Islamophobia motion is necessary if people could be charged with a hate crime for a simple protest under existing law.
Conservative Party leadership candidate and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier told The Daily Caller that the motion represents a gross violation of free speech and said that he will fight it.
“I was one of the first in the Canadian leadership to oppose that motion. It is not good for freedom of speech and freedom of opinion in this country — the most important right that we have. We have the right to say what we want to say… so we don’t need a motion like that. I will vote against it and I’ll be proud to do it,” Bernier said.
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