Complaints from Egale and the office of Toronto-Centre MPP Glen Murray have sparked an investigation into possible hate-propaganda violations at the fourth annual Journey of Faith conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre July 2 and 3.
The Islamic conference hosted clerics from Canada and around the world, some of whom have been known to spread hate propaganda against gays, Jews and Christians.
Following reports in Xtra and the Toronto Star, Egale and Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray filed complaints with Toronto police and the Ontario attorney general’s office.
Egale’s letter to the attorney general noted that one of the guest speakers, Bilal Philips, advocated that gays should be executed if they were caught in the act, and that Philips was recently expelled from Germany for expressing those views.
“I ask that you take immediate action to determine if the comments made by Philips in Toronto this weekend contravened the Criminal Code,” Egale executive director Helen Kennedy says in the letter. “If so, I trust that you will promptly initiate appropriate redress and implement measures to ensure that he does not continue to promote hatred and genocide against the LGBT community in Ontario.”
Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, confirmed that the incident was referred to the chief prosecutor, who in turn referred it to the Toronto Police Service.
“Ontario has no place for any form of hate speech directed at any identifiable group, including members of the LGBTQ community,” Crawley says.
Constable Bisla of the Hate Crimes Unit confirmed that Toronto police are investigating possible breaches of the hate propaganda law but declined to give further information about the investigation.
A spokesperson for Murray’s office said that he’s been led to believe that the police did monitor the conference over the weekend to ensure that no hate speech took place.
Kennedy says it’s important to crack down on hate propaganda because it can have insidious effects on society and the queer community.
“Homophobic and transphobic bullying is rampant in Canada’s schools, and we continue to see disturbingly high suicide rates among LGBT youth. As such, it is crucial that the promotion and legitimizing of hatred against the LGBT community not be permitted to continue,” she wrote.
JULY 1: An Islamic religious conference will host a series of controversial speakers, who have called for the death of gays, Jews and Christians, in Toronto this weekend while hundreds of thousands of people will be celebrating Pride.
The fourth annual Journey of Faith conference will take place Saturday, July 2 and Sunday, July 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The MTCC is an Ontario Crown Corporation under the responsibility of the minister for tourism and culture.
One of the speakers at the event is Jamaican-Canadian Bilal Philips, who has been denied entry to Australia and the UK and was expelled from Germany earlier this year for his advocacy of the death penalty for gay people. He has also claimed that AIDS is a divine punishment from Allah for homosexuality
Other speakers include Abu Usamah Atthabi and Abu Abdissalam, who have expressed sympathy for extremist terrorists and said that Muslims should not cooperate with Western governments.
Toronto-Centre MPP Glen Murray says that he first heard about the conference Friday morning and that his office has filed a complaint with the Toronto Police Hate Crimes Unit.
Toronto police’s 52 Division was not aware of the conference when Xtra spoke to them Friday afternoon.
“This is hate speech, and hate speech is a felony according to the Criminal Code,” Murray says. “The police should take action. I hope the full weight of the law comes down on these people.”
Murray says that the MTCC isn’t mandated to screen its events for hate speech, although it is bound by the Human Rights Code of Ontario.
Trinity-Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese, whose riding includes the MTCC, says he will be filing a complaint with the attorney general’s office Monday morning.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s on Pride weekend or not,” he says. It’s unbelievable that people could have such feelings. You would think they would hide their views and not express them as if it’s an acceptable point of view. “
An email to the Journey of Faith organizers was not immediately returned. The conference website claims that its purpose is to “introduce humanity to the sources and understanding of Islam in order to increase their level of faith, enlighten their hearts, enrich their minds and ultimately transform them in becoming exemplary Muslims who will follow the footsteps of the Prophet of Mercy.”
The website further says that the conference “would also endorse the proper understanding of religious sources in avoiding following human whims and desires often leading to extremism, intolerance and religious violence.”
Egale executive director Helen Kennedy says she’s disappointed that the conference is happening but that Egale has not taken any action over it.
“There’s a lot of hate against our communities this weekend,” she says.
Queer Ontario’s Nick Mulé also expressed concern about the conference.
“There are concerns about government property hosting such events if in fact the hate laws are going to be contravened,” he says.
That anti-gay speakers will be hosted on provincial property recalls a similar controversy that occurred in 2009, when dancehall artist Elephant Man, whose lyrics call for violence and death to homosexuals, was scheduled to perform a concert in Downsview Park.
Action by several queer groups and individuals led to the federal government finally banning Elephant Man from performing in the park.
Calls to the MTCC were not immediately returned because of the long weekend.