Ontario’s next premier has pledged to end racist and anti-Semitic public events, in the wake of last Saturday’s annual Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto, which has generated at least one complaint to police.
“Our government will take action to ensure that events like Al-Quds Day, which calls for the killing of an entire civilian population in Israel, are no longer part of the landscape in Ontario,” premier-designate Doug Ford tweeted the day after the June 9 rally in downtown Toronto.
“Blatantly racist or anti-Semitic ideology should never be permitted on the grounds of the legislative assembly of Ontario, or anywhere else in our province.”
The rally was barely over when B’nai Brith Canada said it was filing a hate crimes complaint with Toronto Police, after a speaker called for the “eradication” of Israelis and Zionists.
The remark came from Sheikh Shafiq Huda of the Islamic Humanitarian Service in Kitchener, Ont., during the “annual hatefest dedicated to the destruction of Israel,” said B’nai Brith, which posted a video of Huda’s speech on its website.
In an earlier email to B’nai Brith, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he was confident “that if there are incidents of hate, police will act and we will be urging city staff to determine what additional measures could be deployed in response to any acts of hate.”
There was a sizable police presence, but no arrests were made at the rally, which was attended by around 500 to 700 protesters.
Photographs taken at the rally show many people flying the flag of Hezbollah, a terrorist group that’s banned in Canada, as well as banners equating Zionism with racism, accusing Israel of genocide and being an apartheid state, and showing prominent Iranian clerics.
“Certainly, many of the images and speeches may contravene hate speech laws, if not the peaceful fabric of co-existence in our province. In the next few days, we will be evaluating footage and photographs while relating them to authorities,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
As in years past, the rally started in Queen’s Park North, which, despite its name, is municipal property. No rallies or protests are permitted in city parks, officials have told The CJN.
Marchers then walked across the grounds of the legislature, en route to the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue, where they were met by a vocal counter-protest by members of the Jewish Defence League.
The rally “is a stain upon Toronto’s open and tolerant image,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith. “Particularly absurd is the fact that rally attendees – most of whom come from outside of the city – can shut down parts of downtown Toronto and distract hundreds of police officers from more important work, without paying any fees whatsoever.”
Toronto councillor James Pasternak has said he would like to see the city bill organizers for police services and waste disposal, issue peace bonds and violations for trespassing, and freeze bank accounts.
A report from the city manager on how to prevent public gatherings that promote hatred and incitement is due at the end of June.
A “Statement of Principles” issued by rally organizers said, in part, “We oppose all forms of bigotry and racism, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian hate speech. We oppose Zionism but not Judaism.… We believe that the goals of Zionism are discriminatory and profoundly inconsistent with the values of Judaism.”
Police are still investigating a music video from last summer’s rally that allegedly called for Israelis to be stabbed, bombed on buses and run over with vehicles.