LEITCH MET WITH MOSQUE PROTESTERS
TORONTO • Video showing Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch at a meeting with members of a group that protested outside a Toronto mosque last month was called “deeply troubling” on Wednesday.
Leitch can be seen shaking hands with a Rise Canada senior adviser and later responding to his questions at the gathering in Brampton, Ont., on Sunday. Videos of the event were posted on the Rise Canada website.
“Part of the Rise Canada organizing team spoke to Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch at an event in Brampton,” the group’s website said. The video was titled: “Rise Canada: Outlines our goals to Kellie Leitch.”
The Rise Canada Twitter account has called Islam “a barbaric ideology of hate that must be banned,” and proposed “a permanent ban on all Muslim immigrants PLUS mass deportation of existing Muslims.”
On Feb. 17, the group took part in a protest outside a downtown Toronto mosque. Demonstrators held signs that read “Muslims are terrorists” and “No to Islam.”
Toronto police are investigating.
“It is deeply troubling to see elected officials participate in meetings where they do not challenge people advocating to deny the human rights of fellow Canadians based on irrational fear and hatred,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
The Rise Canada video also showed donations that had been collected at the event to fight construction of a mosque in Mississauga, Ont. Gardee said the money was for “an individual who peddles in anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.”
In a statement to the National Post on Wednesday, Leitch’s spokesman said the meeting was organized by a group that wants to keep religion out of public schools and that the Tory leadership hopeful was not sent a guest list in advance.
“This meeting was about the place of religion in public schools. That meeting was attended by a number of people from a number of different groups, including people from Rise Canada,” Michael Diamond said.
But Leitch was unaware the Rise Canada adviser would be there, he said. “Had she known she would not have attended. She wants to be very clear that this guy and his opinions are repugnant and do not reflect her own views.”
“She is committed to building a country that promotes the shared values of hard work, generosity, freedom, tolerance, equality of opportunity and equality of the individual.
“That includes the freedom to practice your religion and the responsibility to be tolerant of other people’s religions.”
The Anti-Racist Canada blog, which first reported on Leitch’s attendance at the event, called Rise Canada a hate group and highlighted anti-Muslim posts on its Twitter account, including one that called Islam a “rape culture.”
Another Rise Canada Twitter post, dated Dec. 18, said, “Muslims are rotten from the time they drop from the womb. Hope the Syrian Army slaughters all the kids first.”
A recent Tweet read, “Eradicate Islam from the planet.”
Asked if the group stood by those Tweets, Jennifer Bushmill of Rise Canada said it did not. She said several people with access to the Twitter account had posted “unauthorized Tweets,” which she called a “rookie mistake.”
She said the event with Leitch was organized by another group called Concerned Parents of Canada, which said it was opposed to religious practices in Canadian public schools and was not associated with Rise Canada.
“We don’t support or promote activities/dialogue against any religion or faith. We respect all. This was a free event and everyone was free to ask questions. That should not be interpreted or projected as any one individual playing a prominent role,” Concerned Parents of Canada said in an email.
One of the videos of the event showed Ron Banerjee saying the “RiseCanada.com team” had come to learn about Leitch’s platform. He was then shown at the podium introducing himself as a Canadian Hindu Advocacy director and RiseCanada. com adviser. He spoke about what he called “Shariah creep.”
Diamond said Leitch was not present when he addressed the audience of about 30.
“This was an open public meeting where anyone could attend,” Bushmill responded in an email. “We and many others heard about this meeting and attended. Other groups and individuals were present and spoke before Dr. Leitch arrived. And of course at the meeting anyone could raise their hand and ask questions,” she said. “RiseCanada.com is a mainstream Canadian group promoting Canadian values and working with diverse communities to make Canada rise again.”