A Toronto conference on racism will feature both anti-Islam speakers and Jewish groups

Strange bedfellows:

An upcoming Toronto conference is going to feature anti-Islam speakers, anti-hate advocates and some of the most recognizable Jewish organizations in Canada.

The “national teach-in” on hate and racism is organized by a group called Canadians for the Rule of Law, which argues on its website that “‘political correctness’ is distorting valid criticism” and “‘Libel chill’ is preventing the sharing of ugly facts.” The teach-in seeks to expose those who perpetuate these problems to the detriment of Canadian democracy.

To that effect, the March 17 conference will scrutinize “(A) the radical left; (B) radical Islamists; and (C) the radical right,” in that order of priority. The teach-in was supposed to take place at an important synagogue in Toronto until it pulled out last week over security concerns.

B’nai Brith Canada, one of the country’s most prominent Jewish advocacy groups, has agreed to their CEO Michael Mostyn moderating one of the panel sessions, while Robert Walker, the head of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, a pro-Israel group that works primarily on campuses, is also speaking at the event next March.

Though the conference features a number of well-known, mainstream anti-hate advocates such as Donald Carr, who sits on the board of CFTRL, David Matas and Anita Bromberg, a significant number of organizers and featured speakers are active in Canada’s anti-Muslim or alt-right circles.

Perhaps most notable among these are Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College, and Christine Douglass-Williams, who was fired from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation board for being an active writer to Jihad Watch, a leading Islamophobic platform. McVety had a national TV show pulled off the air in 2010 for his remarks against the LGBTQ community. His college hosted a Rebel Media event in Feb 2017, emceed by prominent far-right propagandist Faith Goldy. He also hosted the popular anti-Islam activist and then Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders in 2011. At the time, McVety described the spread of Islam in Canada as a “demographic jihad.” “Islam is not just a religion, it’s a political and cultural system as well and we know that Christians, Jews and Hindus don’t have the same mandate for a hostile takeover,” he said in 2011.

“No reason whatsoever not to engage in a public discussion.”

John Carpay, who heads up Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, will also be at the conference. He spoke at a Rebel Media event in Calgary last month about the threat of totalitarianism in Canada partly by comparing the Nazi swastika to the “rainbow flag,” a comment he later said was “unintentionally” made. Rebel also fundraised on behalf of Carpay’s centre and some of its initiatives.

B’nai Brith Canada’s media liaison Marty York qualified his organization’s overall involvement when asked whether the decision to send its CEO to participate was made with the consideration that it features such a prominent anti-Muslim presence.

“Mr. Mostyn is moderating one single session on hate speech, which is something he does regularly,” York told VICE News. “He found out who the panelists are going to be and he was comfortable with their identities. Whoever else is involved during the day in other sessions, I’m not even sure if he even knows.”

He said Mr. Mostyn saw “no reason whatsoever not to engage in a public discussion” on hate speech in his one session.

“So there seems to be a smear by association campaign going on, and if that’s the case it’s very unfortunate.”

He added that B’nai Brith Canada “supports the rule of law” in Canada and thus “has no qualms at all about” Mostyn’s participation, regardless of who else is involved throughout the day-long conference.

David Matas, a noted human rights specialist and Senior Honorary Counsel for B’nai Brith, says he’s troubled by the anti-Muslim presence in the planned conference, but didn’t know until friends and colleagues emailed him their concerns.

“This all sort of just popped up and I have to go through all of it and make a decision collectively with my colleagues,” he says. “I admit that from what I’ve seen, there are obviously concerns that we need to discuss and I may end up not participating, but we have to look at all the information first.”

Robert Walker, executive director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, cited addressing “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Zionism” as the main reasons for his involvement in the conference, preferring to offer no comment on the anti-Muslim participants.

“There are obviously concerns that we need to discuss.”

Hasbara is an initiative run out of Aish Hatorah, a major international network of Jewish educational centres and synagogues.

“Contemporary anti-Semitism often masquerades behind different masks, such as anti-Zionism, which is denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their historic homeland,” he told VICE News. “I do not and cannot speak for other panelists or speakers.”

Among the conference’s main topics is “Actions Against BDS,” or the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the state of Israel.

The conference was originally supposed to take place at the prominent Beth Tikvah synagogue in North York. But in an email to VICE News, Rabbi Jarrod Grover of the synagogue noted that it has pulled out of the arrangement, leaving CFTRL without a host.

Grover stated that the decision to pull out was based primarily on security concerns for participants and to avoid a “media circus” — not over any ideological concerns.

“I defend the right of CFTRL and their speakers to say what they want to say within the limits of Canadian law.”

“We like dialogue and free speech, but we are a religious, not a political organization,” he wrote. “I defend the right of CFTRL and their speakers to say what they want to say within the limits of Canadian law, despite the fact that I obviously have different beliefs than many speakers at this conference.”

According to the Canadian Jewish News, the decision to pull out came after Karen Mock, president of the progressive Jewish group JSpace Canada, reached out to Rabbi Grover to discuss “potential damage control” over media interest in the event due to “the Islamophobia and bigotry associated with some of these groups and individuals.”

A response for a media request to CFTRL’s general inbox was replied by board member David Nitkin, who rejected the request on the basis that VICE News is an “alt-left” publication. Carr did not respond to requests for comment. He told the Canadian Jewish News that the event will go on, and “we reject any attempt by those who wish to stifle free speech.”

Nitkin is also a leading organizer and board member of the anti-Islam group, Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights and Freedoms (C3RF), which indicates in its mission statement that “Islamophobia” is a concept invented by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies to infiltrate Canada and implement Shariah law. It is listed as a “community supporter” of the conference, along with ACT! Canada, which is a prominent anti-Islam group.

Source: A Toronto conference on racism will feature both anti-Islam speakers and Jewish groups

Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer [David Matas]

Sun Media continues to cover the perspectives of those concerned without comparable coverage of those in support of M-103. Both perspectives need to be covered.

My (faint) hope is that the Canadian Heritage committee will come up with a consensus on a working definition, one that puts that particular canard behind us, and allows focus on the day-to-day practical issues:

A celebrated Canadian human rights lawyer urged MPs to be careful in their use of the term Islamophobia, saying “fear of some elements of Islam is mere prudence.”

David Matas, an Order of Canada recipient who began his career as a clerk for the Chief Justice of Canada in the 1960s, delivered testimony Wednesday before the M-103 committee hearings in his capacity as senior counsel to B’nai Brith Canada.

“Not every fear of Islam is Islamophobia,” Matas said to the House of Commons Heritage Committee, noting that anyone who is not afraid of the various radical Islamic terrorist outfits in the world is “foolhardy”.

“Islamophobia does not appear in a vacuum,” Matas told MPs. “It grows out of a fear of incitement and acts of hatred and terrorism coming from elements of the Islamic community.”

The Winnipeg-based lawyer, who ran for office years ago as a Liberal, recommended the committee take a “dual focus” approach on both those victimized by Islamophobia and those within the Islamic community inciting hatred and terrorism.

Following Matas’ testimony, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, urged the committee to aim towards a more precise definition of Islamophobia.

M-103 was nominally designed to denounce, and study, all forms of racism and discrimination, but has faced extensive controversy for singling out Islam.

Fogel pointed to a Toronto District School Board booklet’s definition of Islamophobia that included mere dislike of political Islam as worthy of censure.

“This incident exposes significant problems with relying on ad hoc, inadequate definitions of Islamophobia,” said Fogel.

On Monday, Muslim author and Sun columnist Farzana Hassan told the committee her concerns about how the term is used in other countries to suppress criticism from within the faith.

Source: Some fears of Islam justified: Lawyer | St. Thomas Times-Journal

If Donald Trump were campaigning in Canada, could he be charged for hate speech?

Good comparative analysis:

On Monday Donald Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what’s going on.” Despite universal outrage, the billionaire presidential candidate has only doubled down on his vow, the latest in a string of anti-minority comments ranging from the offensive to the downright absurd. Even respectable commentators have started calling him a fascist.

These comments are in bad taste at best and hateful at worst, why are there no legal repercussions for Trump making them? 

The short answer is because it’s the United States. The U.S. has extremely strong protections for free speech, which is only considered hateful if it will incite direct and immediate violence. Trump pontificating at a podium or in an interview doesn’t qualify. Until he starts an angry mob, he’s free to say whatever he likes.

So for argument’s sake, what if this were happening in Canada? Would anything be different?

Trump’s most recent comments might offend you, but they likely still couldn’t be prosecuted under Canadian law. Though hate speech laws in Canada are broader than they are south of the border, speech needs to meet some very specific requirements to be considered hateful here, too.

Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code states that hate speech “incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” and where the comments are made in a public place.

This would pose two problems for charges under hate speech law.

“[T]he immediacy of the breach of the peace would make it extremely difficult to convict someone for saying what Trump said,” said Faisal Kutty, a Toronto lawyer and human rights activist.

Trump also isn’t making any outright claims despite the subtext of his statements, said Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor.

“That’s the main problem with trying to fit his current statement under the hate speech law: it doesn’t have any real hateful content in the sense of making a claim about the nature of character of Muslims,” said Moon. “Of course, why should they be excluded other than, presumably, on the belief that they are somehow dangerous? But he leaves that slightly open.”

But I’ve seen and heard people call his comments hate speech. What does that mean?

That’s due to the technicality of law. While his comments might be considered hateful, the burden of proof under the law is higher. The comments must meet specific criteria to be prosecuted, and his comments likely don’t meet these standards.

What about some of his other comments? He’s said a lot more extreme things in the past.

Some of his previous remarks could more easily be prosecuted, like his remarks about Mexican immigrants during his announcement speech on June 16: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“That is the very stuff of hate speech, and a claim like that made in Canada might well constitute hate speech contrary to the Criminal Code,” Moon said.

So why are Canadian and American hate speech laws so different?

It’s probably due to a lot of factors, but part of it traces back to the founding of the country. America is old, and so are some of the laws, said David Matas, a Winnipeg-based lawyer and author of Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech.

“In the United States you’ve got a bill of rights which is very old.  It comes from the 18thcentury. Everywhere else, the concept of rights is post-Holocaust, post-Declaration of Human Rights. Being ahead of the gun at the time has left them far behind when it comes to the 21st century.”

Source: If Donald Trump were campaigning in Canada, could he be charged for hate speech?

Using culture and religion to combat incitement: David Matas

From David Matas’ talk at the recent CRRF Webinar, ‘The Power of Words’ (see earlier post CRRF Webinar: Multiculturalism and The Power of Words) and the particular need for the voices of insiders:

The effort to combat human rights violating discourse must be the work of both insiders and outsiders.  Leaving the efforts to others, the outsiders, is a recipe for failure.  Leaving the efforts to outsiders creates an artificial impression of foreign cultural or religious imposition which undermines the advocacy of universality of the standards.

For insiders to assume sole responsibility has the same effect. By leaving the struggle to insiders alone, we create the impression that incitement is an issue for the particular religion or culture alone rather than for us all.

Insiders have a special risk and a special role.  Only insiders can be accused of treason or apostasy.  Only insiders can speak with authority to what the culture or religion truly is.

Ideally, leadership in the struggle against human rights violating discourse should come from within, from the leaders of the cultural or religious community. Solidarity should come from without.  Universality must be more than a word.  It must be demonstrated in fact.  We who are outsiders should be supporting those in every religious and cultural community who stand against incitement emanating from that community.

There is a direct linkage between incitement and other human rights violations.  War propaganda leads to war. Incitement to terrorism leads to terrorism.  Incitement to discrimination leads to discrimination.  Both incitement to genocide and hate propaganda lead to genocide.

There is a direct linkage between the abuse of the religious and cultural idioms to propagate terror, war, genocide, hatred and discrimination and the terrorism, war, discrimination and mass killings in which some members of the culture or religion engage. In some situations, and I see this often in my refugee practice, the opponents in-country of this propaganda emanating from their own culture or religion become primary targets of the propagators.  Standing against incitement in a country without respect for the rule of law means you yourself will become a target for the inciters.

In that situation global solidarity is essential, both within and without the culture or religion from which the incitement emanates. We need to cross the cultural, linguistic, geographic and religious divide not just to show the universality of rights and solidarity with the victims but also as a simple practical matter.  Whether inside or outside the culture or religion, only those outside the country where violations are rampant can there be unequivocal public opposition to human rights violating discourse.

To a certain extent, this problem exists even in countries benefiting from the rule of law.  In countries with the rule of law, those opposed to incitement within their culture or religion may not face the risk of physical harm.  But in a situation where the discourse of incitement in the culture or religion is prevalent, opponents to the discourse within the culture or the religion may face ostracism and scorn.  They risk becoming pariahs in their own communities.

How many of us are prepared to confront our parents, our siblings, our neighbours, our community leaders when they engage in discourse which would be objectively labelled incitement to genocide, hatred, discrimination, terrorism or war? How many of us would hesitate to risk personal relationships in order to stand up against incitement uttered by someone close to us?  How many of us would rather leave the confrontation to a stranger?

Yet, the reality is that a challenge from someone from the same community or culture is likely to have more impact on the genocide/ hate/ terrorism/ war/ discrimination promoter than a challenge from someone culturally or religiously remote. It may be easy for an inciter to shrug off outsiders. It is harder to shrug off your own.

I have avoided giving examples partly because it is invidious to give one or two, partly because it would more than exhaust my time and your patience to be comprehensive, but mostly because I am confident that every one participating can think of examples on his or her own.  While each of us should be thinking about how we can help others in other cultural or religious communities to address the problem of incitement, primarily we should be thinking of what we can do each in our own cultural or religious community to combat this scourge.

Using culture and religion to combat incitement

CRRF Webinar: Multiculturalism and The Power of Words

 Short summary and links to the presentations by David Matas and myself:

words letterpress photo
The first Directions webinar was held on October 6th at 11 am EST.

The webinar featured members of our journal’s Editorial Advisory Panel, Andrew Griffith and David Matas. Andrew and David spoke about their research as it relates to The Power of Words, with a specific focus on multiculturalism in Canada. Their presentations and questions from participants are posted below.

The webinar was moderated by Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux.

The Winter 2015 issue, The Power of Words responds to the question, “Is our lexicon a positive force or part of the problem?”

Published in print and online January 2016, The Power of Words speaks to the importance of reviewing and evolving science terminology in response to changing demographics and settlement trends. The concept of hyphenated Canadians, terms such as ‘visible minorities’ and ‘newcomers,’ and even the idea of ‘race relations’ require ongoing reassessment, and are being challenged and re-examined in the context of our changing society. How do language and lexicon in policy, in the media, and in daily interactions influence our experiences, identities, attitudes, and relationships? How can discourse create and perpetuate unbalanced power relations, marginalizing certain groups and individuals? How can we use language to promote positive race relations in a harmonious Canada?

Presentations

Andrew Griffith’s presentation >

David Mata’s presentation >

Audio

Did you miss the webinar, or would you like to listen to the discussion again? Check out the audio recording of the webinar here.

Source: Articles and Announcements – Webinar: Multiculturalism and The Power of Words

For a slightly expanded version of my presentation (an additional slide contrasting the words of Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau):

CRRF Power of Words – My Deck

Sign up today! CRRF Directions: Webinar – ‘The Power of Words’ 6 October

Join David Matas and myself in a discussion of the ‘power of words’ to shape discourse around citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.

Sign-up: CRRF Directions: Webinar – The ‘Power of Words’ Tuesday, 6 October 11 am

Tories speed up plan to give minister power to strip citizenship – The Globe and Mail

More debate on the proposed revocation measures, particularly with respect to revocation for fraud and Ministerial decision-making. The previous revocation process was largely unworkable:

Mr. Alexander told CTV this week the existing revocation process is “one of the most time-consuming, document-intensive bureaucratic processes I’ve ever seen.” His spokeswoman, Codie Taylor, said the unilateral system is meant to “reduce duplication and bureaucracy. We are making the citizenship system more efficient, which will result in decreased backlogs and improved processing times.”

Canada can’t leave a person stateless under international treaty law, so the rules apply only to dual citizens. The law also puts the onus on those accused to prove they’d be left stateless – not on government to prove they wouldn’t. Mr. Alexander also now has the sole right to grant “discretionary” citizenship, though the government says it will not make public the list of those who get it.

The changes in Bill C-24 omit Sections 10 and 18 of the existing Citizenship Act, which dealt with revocation and a subject’s right to appeal to court. While court will no longer be an option in some cases, Winnipeg immigration lawyer David Matas noted other cases actually will be sent to a higher court than before. “This new legislation, as far as I can see, is an improvement,” he said.

Tories speed up plan to give minister power to strip citizenship – The Globe and Mail.