Canada Calling – Toronto Man Charged With Inciting Hatred Toward Muslims
By Faisal Kutty – The Metropolitan Toronto Police charged a Toronto man on July 1 with inciting hatred against Muslims. The Criminal Code charge of “willfully promoting hatred toward an identifiable group” followed weeks of investigation by the special Hate Crimes Unit in response to complaints from both Muslims and non-Muslims. The charge is only the second under Section 319(2) of the Code in Ontario.
The accused, Mark Harding, operated a telephone service and published and distributed pamphlets through his organization, The Christian Standard. It is not clear whether Harding operated alone. The Standard’s recorded message stated that according to the Bible, Muhammad was a false prophet and that the Qur’an was the work of the devil. The message was toned down following media coverage.
The Christian Standard refers to Muslims as “raging wolves in sheeps clothing.”
The Christian Standard describes itself as a “self-supporting group of Christian soldiers serving God and Lord Jesus Christ, in Canada and around the world.” In a pamphlet titled, Are all the Muslims living in Canada today TERRORITS [sic]: This is a warning to Canadians and their families, the group refers to Muslims as “raging wolves in sheeps clothing.” The pamphlet also charges that Muslims are creating major problems around the world and concludes that “we have the same Muslim believers here in Toronto…”
In a second brochure handed out near a high school, Weston Collegiate, the group charges that Muslim students have turned the school into a mosque. The pamphlet, titled Lets take a serious look at what’s happening to Western [sic] Collegiate High School, calls on parents to take action against this “threat to our children.”
Members of the Muslim community as well as school authorities responded quickly. The pamphlets and the recorded message were brought to the attention of the local police. The community also organized two press conferences to address the matter.
The attorney general’s office consented to proceeding with the charge following the police investigation and pressure from Muslim groups as well as City of York Counselor Rob Davis, City of York Mayor Francis Nunziata, Member of Parliament John Nunziata and principal Tony Kerins of Weston Collegiate.
In the wake of his arrest, Harding appears to be gaining supporters. In fact, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) received an e-mail from a group lamenting the death of freedom in Canada and calling on people to support Harding in his “right to speak out against Muslims.”
A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 20, 1997. If convicted, Harding faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Faisal Kutty is a Toronto-based lawyer and free-lance writer.
Note: First Published: OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 1997, Page 47
Tags: Hate Crime
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