Canada’s spy agency faces $35 mil­lion ha­rass­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit


SAINT-APOL­LI­NAIRE, Que. — Af­ter six Mus­lim men were shot dead in­side a Que­bec City mosque last Jan­uary, re­la­tions be­tween Mus­lims and the rest of the com­mu­nity were ex­cel­lent, said Mo­hamed Kesri — and then the ceme­tery is­sue came up.

Plans are un­der­way to open the first Que­bec City-area ceme­tery owned and op­er­ated by Mus­lims, but a hand­ful of peo­ple op­pose the project and trig­gered a ref­er­en­dum, which takes place Sun­day.

“There are Catholic ceme­ter­ies, Protes­tant ceme­ter­ies, Jewish ceme­ter­ies — we aren’t in­vent­ing any­thing here,” said Kesri, the man man­dated by the Que­bec City mosque to lead the project. “We want to be like every­body else.”

The pro­posed burial site is lo­cated in Saint-Apol­li­naire, a town of 6,000 about 35 kilo­me­tres south­west of Que­bec City.

Due to a Que­bec law per­mit­ting ref­er­en­dums on zon­ing mat­ters, 49 peo­ple who live and work around the pro­posed site will de­cide whether the thou­sands of Mus­lims in the Que­bec City area get their own ceme­tery.

“If I had asked for an or­di­nary ceme­tery, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have both­ered peo­ple,” said Sain­tApol­li­naire Mayor Bernard Ouel­let. “I think the fear has started be­cause of the word, ’Mus­lim.’”

If Sun­day’s ref­er­en­dum fails, Ouel­let said, “I don’t have a Plan B. On our level, we would have done the max­i­mum ef­fort.” Kesri isn’t nearly as re­signed. Que­bec adopted a law in June al­low­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to forgo ref­er­en­dums on land projects in or­der to give more power to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Kesri said Que­bec City’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity will pres­sure politi­cians to have the new leg­is­la­tion ap­plied — if need be.

“It’s clear to us we won’t aban­don the project,” said Kesri. “They have the power to not do a ref­er­en­dum, so if we can have the law ap­plied, then why not do it?”

Que­bec City’s Mus­lims have been look­ing for a ceme­tery for two decades, but made a re­newed push af­ter they com­pleted the pay­ment for the city’s main mosque, in 2011, Kesri said.

It was there last Jan­uary that a gun­man shot dead six men in the main prayer hall and in­jured 19 oth­ers. The bod­ies were sent over­seas and to Mon­treal for burial.

“Since the events of Jan. 29, there was an ex­tra­or­di­nary sense of com­mu­nity,” Kesri said.

“There were meet­ings af­ter meet­ings. We were all in­cred­i­bly sur­prised. We thought it would con­tinue. And then this small mi­nor­ity risks de­stroy­ing a project that be­longs to thou­sands of Mus­lims.”

The land for the pro­posed ceme­tery is be­hind a non-de­nom­i­na­tional fu­neral par­lour called Harmonia, lo­cated along Saint-Apol­li­naire’s in­dus­trial park.

Few peo­ple live around the area, which ex­plains why only 49 peo­ple get to vote Sun­day.

Syl­vain Roy, Harmonia’s di­rec­tor, said his com­pany of­fered to sell part of the land to Que­bec City’s mosque for $215,000.

The plan is to have two ceme­ter­ies — one non-sec­tar­ian and an­other Mus­lim — side by side, he said.

“We had about 10-12 peo­ple come see us af­ter we made the an­nounce­ment,” Roy said. “There is a small but fe­ro­cious op­po­si­tion to this project.”

HAL­I­FAX — Five Hal­i­fax venues have re­sponded to Trag­i­cally Hip rocker Gord Downie’s call on cor­po­rate Canada to do more to pro­mote di­a­logue and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

The Legacy Room ini­tia­tive, part of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wen­jack Fund, an­nounced new lo­ca­tions Fri­day in­clud­ing a Hal­i­fax pri­vate school, a univer­sity, an ac­count­ing out­let, a res­tau­rant and a devel­op­ment firm.

Char­lene Bear­head, co-chair­woman of the fund, said the spa­ces will en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tions be­tween In­dige­nous and non-In­dige­nous peo­ple and raise aware­ness of the legacy of res­i­den­tial schools.

“Be­ing an­gry or shamed, sham­ing white peo­ple or re-trau­ma­tiz­ing In­dige­nous peo­ple, it doesn’t serve us col­lec­tively,” she said dur­ing an in­ter­view.

“These spa­ces are about build­ing re­la­tion­ships and en­cour­ag­ing learn­ing and aware­ness.”

The five Hal­i­fax lo­ca­tions, the Arm­brae Academy, the Bar­ring­ton Steak House and Oys­ter Bar, the li­brary at Dalhousie Univer­sity, Deloitte At­lantic Canada and the Water­front Devel­op­ment Corp., join three legacy rooms es­tab­lished in On­tario and aboard the Canada C3 ship trav­el­ling from Toronto to Vic­to­ria, bring­ing the to­tal to nine rooms across the coun­try.

The host of each Legacy Room has com­mit­ted to an an­nual do­na­tion of $5,000 over five years, which will go to­wards grass­roots rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­grams to sup­port heal­ing and re­cov­ery.

The fund hon­ours 12-year-old Chanie Wen­jack, who died in 1966 af­ter run­ning away from a res­i­den­tial school near Kenora, Ont.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment launched the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem in the 19th cen­tury. Over decades, about 150,000 In­dige­nous chil­dren were re­moved from their homes and sent to reli­gious board­ing schools.

Away from their fam­i­lies and na­tive cul­ture, many stu­dents lived in hor­rific con­di­tions and en­dured se­vere abuse. The im­pact of res­i­den­tial schools con­tin­ues to be felt to­day.

Hal­i­fax MP Andy Fill­more said the idea of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Canada is a way for cit­i­zens to re­al­ize rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can be part of their daily lives.

“The power of the legacy rooms is that they bring rec­on­cil­i­a­tion home right to the mid­dle of our com­mu­nity, at a steak house or at the li­brary, and make rec­on­cil­i­a­tion part of peo­ples lives on a day-to-day ba­sis,” he said.

“It gives them a han­dle to grab onto and a lever to make change.”

The Legacy Room idea is the brain­child of Assem­bly of First Na­tions re­gional Chief Mor­ley Goo­goo, who rep­re­sents Nova Sco­tia and New­found­land and Labrador.

OT­TAWA — Canada’s spy agency is be­ing sued by five em­ploy­ees who are look­ing for up­wards of $35 mil­lion in dam­ages over al­le­ga­tions of years of ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion based on their re­li­gion, race, eth­nic­ity, gen­der and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. A state­ment of claim filed in Fed­eral Court al­leges that ha­rass­ment, bul­ly­ing and “abuse of au­thor­ity” is rife within the Cana­dian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice and that man­agers con­done such be­hav­iour. The al­le­ga­tions are based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of five em­ploy­ees, none of whom can be legally iden­ti­fied within the doc­u­ment. They al­lege that the ha­rass­ment they have faced over years has caused them em­bar­rass­ment, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and loss of in­come. They also al­lege that their com­plaints were ig­nored or dis­missed by se­nior man­agers, some of whom sug­gested they should keep quiet out of fear of reprisal. Post­media Wire Ser­vices


Mo­hamed Kesri dur­ing an in­ter­view at the Cen­tre Culturel Islamique de Que­bec Wed­nes­day in Que­bec City. Plans are un­der­way to open the first ceme­tery in the Que­bec City area owned and op­er­ated by Mus­lims, but a hand­ful of peo­ple op­pose the project and trig­gered a ref­er­en­dum, which takes place Sun­day.

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