Despite objections from Jewish groups and Canadian lawmakers, officials at Queen’s Park have decided to allow an anti-Israel “Al-Quds” rally to take place on its lawn next week, The National Post reported.
Canadian Minister of Environment Peter Kent said the Sergeant-at-Arms was wrong to approve a repeat of an event that offended Jewish groups the year before.
“Video recordings of last year’s ‘Rally’ document hate speech, racism, anti-Semitism, and support for listed organizations that clearly exceed the limits of Canadian freedoms of free assembly and free speech,” read a statement released by Kent’s office on Friday.
Video footage from last year’s Al-Quds day at Queen’s Park depicted speakers likening Israel to a cancer and waving Hisbullah flags.
“Of course I respect the Sergeant-at-Arms, but I think a mistake has been made,” Kent said in an interview with The National Post on Friday. “As you know, Thornhill is a wonderful diverse community but there is a significant Jewish community … Being a federal minister doesn’t diminish my responsibility to speak up for my constituents.”
Last week, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty urging him bar this year’s event from taking place on the legislature’s grounds.
At a news conference Thursday, McGuinty said the issue is the jurisdiction of Sergeant-at-Arms and the Speaker.
“But let me just say something as a Premier,” he said. “We believe in freedom of speech, but there are some limits associated with that so we will not tolerate intolerances, we will not tolerate hate.”
Sergeant-at-Arms Dennis Clark said his office receives hundreds of applications a year and “it would be very rare for us to deny an application,” according to The National Post.
The “Guidelines” section of the Queen’s Park application states that “Illegal signs or speeches, such as obscenity or hate propaganda are strictly prohibited.”
Jewish group leaders from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal and B’nai Brith said they have been communicating with Toronto Police’s Hate Crimes Unit, who is expected to monitor the situation.