Trudeau criticizes video offering $1K reward for recordings of Muslim students during Friday prayer
Amara McLaughlin, CP24.com
Published Friday, March 31, 2017 5:58PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 31, 2017 6:04PM EDT
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for the need to “work to ensure that everyone understands [and respects] their neighbours” after a man in an online video offered a $1,000 reward for recordings of Muslim students at any Peel District School Board school “spewing hate speech” during Friday prayer.
“Canadians have understood that our differences are a source of strength, not a source of weakness,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Etobicoke on Friday morning.
Trudeau’s call to action came after staff at Peel District School Board were asked to be “extra vigilant” during Friday prayer following the video’s release.
The nearly three-and-a-half minute video was posted to YouTube on Wednesday by Mississauga-based Kevin J. Johnston of the online publication Freedom Report.
The publication brands itself as “the last great bastion of honesty and freedom in Canada.” Its founder, Johnston, routinely criticizes Islam and its adherents. He posted a video on Thursday that falsely claims Muslim men regularly consume camel urine.
After a recent school board meeting dealing with the issue of Muslim prayers in schools, Johnston wrote that Muslim students were trying to “infiltrate Peel region public schools and spread their message of hate and death.”
Two years ago, Johnston faced off against Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie in an attempt to stop the development of the Meadowvale Islamic Centre.
In order to qualify for the cash reward, Johnston explains, the video must identify the student by name and face, and it must be submitted within 24 hours of being filmed. The footage must also “contain hate speech,” the instructions say. A team of translators will determine if hate speech was uttered, Johnston said in the video launching his reward campaign. If the video fits the criteria, he promises to let the recipient wear a mask while receiving his or her reward.
In response to the video, Peel District School Board, which governs schools in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon, called it “hate-filled showmanship.”
“The video itself prejudices our Muslim students in a way that is both unfair and untrue,” Brian Woodland, a spokesperson for Peel District School Board said in an email to CP24. “It also encourages the inappropriate behaviour of other students in our school communities.”
This morning the board reminded students and parents in a memo, that using personal recording devices “is a clear violation of privacy and will not be tolerated.”
Muslim students have observed congregational prayers for close to 20 years, according to a recently released fact sheet around Friday prayers. This is protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Trudeau stood behind this right to religious accommodation after denouncing the video.
“We of course need to continue to work to ensure that everyone understands that respecting their neighbours, that moving beyond mere tolerance, towards acceptance and friendship is the path that Canada needs to continue on,” he said.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario also came out in support of the Peel school board saying that “the eruption of Islamaphobic behavior” aimed at the schools “has obscured the fact that religious accommodation in schools is required under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
“Expressions of prejudice and hate have no place in any school community,” President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario told CP24 in an email. “We support the Peel District School Board in standing firm to oppose such behavior and continuing to provide necessary accommodation.”