LEITCH MET WITH MOSQUE PROTESTERS

National Post (National Edition) - - NEWS - STE­WART BELL

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.”

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