News / Toronto

Demonstrations clash in Toronto over M-103 motion to fight Islamophobia

Toronto police estimated the crowd at 1,500 people, and said 60 officers were called in to keep the peace. Police made three arrests.

Protesters on opposite sides of the debate are separated by police at the Bill M-103 protests at Nathan Phillips Square.

Torstar News Service

Protesters on opposite sides of the debate are separated by police at the Bill M-103 protests at Nathan Phillips Square.

More than 1,000 people participated in a counterdemonstration at Toronto City Hall Saturday against a “March for Freedom, Liberty and Justice,” organized by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCCC).

The CCCC marched against M-103, a parliamentary motion that commits the Legislature to fight against hatred, discrimination and prejudices, particularly against Muslims. The group believes the motion will put a chill on free speech.

An Ontario Liberal backbencher, Iqra Khalid, brought forward the M-103 motion in Parliament last year. The Opposition tried to pass an amendment last month removing the word “Islamophobia” from the motion, but the Liberals used their majority to block the effort.

A similar anti-Islamophobia motion received unanimous support at Queen’s Park last week.

The #PracticeSolidarity crowd showed up an hour ahead of the CCCC’s march, condemning the group’s “hate speech” and calling on the federal government and MPs to condemn those who “advocate hatred based on race, religion and gender.”

The people that came to demonstrate against the CCCC march outnumbered the CCCC demonstrators by about 30 to one.

Sgt. Mike Dicosola, of the Toronto police, said he estimated the crowd at 1,500 people. He said that 60 officers were called in to keep the peace.

The police made three arrests. One person was released, one arrest was for a warrant unrelated to the event and police had no details on the other by press time.

Barbara Edwards, who helped organize the protest against M-103, declined to speak “to the Red Star,” but Jon Hammond, the Facebook administrator of the CCCC, said that M103 is “a gateway drug for the Muslim Brotherhood ... Next, it becomes a bill, then it becomes a law and then we’re a communist country.”

Walied Khogali, with the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia said those claiming this clash was about freedom of speech are being intellectually dishonest.

“We live in the most multicultural city in the world. This is downtown Toronto, so folks who think it’s appropriate to come and promote hate outside of City Hall have something else coming,” he said. “We’re going to be vigilant and mobilize against people who promote hate every time.”

This is not the first spontaneous counter protest to happen in Toronto.

On Feb. 17, Never Again Canada, the CCCC and other groups held an anti-Muslim protest outside the Masjid Toronto mosque, an event investigated by police. Around 30 Toronto citizens came out to support the Muslim community on that occasion.

A similar demonstration and counterdemonstration took place Saturday in Montreal.

With files from The Canadian Press

More on