Toronto approves far-right rally on Charlottesville anniversary

(JTA) – The city of Toronto will allow a far-right rally outside its City Hall on the anniversary of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, despite concerns expressed by the Jewish community.

Several far-right, anti-immigration and nationalist groups are expected to participate in the event Saturday sponsored by the Calgary-based Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI).

“This rally is intended to promote hatred and possibly violence on city property, which is in violation of the city’s own Hate Activity Policy and Procedures,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “We condemn the rally’s organizers and requested that the City prevent such rallies from taking place on public property, both this week and in the future.”

Omo Akintan, acting director of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights for Toronto, said in a statement Wednesday that the city shares B’nai Brith’s concerns but the rally would go on as scheduled.

“The City has a Hate Activity Policy with which users of public spaces are expected to comply. The policy prohibits use of City facilities and spaces for hate activity as defined in the Policy. We will continue to enforce the policy,” she said.

“The City will not tolerate, ignore, or condone illegal discrimination or harassment including any rally that incites hatred and/or violence against groups or persons.”

A statement released by CIJA – the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – said reports indicate the rally will attract only a small gathering.

“We are outraged that hateful groups are planning to promote their toxic agenda in the heart of Toronto on the anniversary of the Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville. It is grotesque that WCAI claims to be defending Canada by promoting bigotry. To the contrary, hatred against Muslims or any other minority is an assault on Canada’s core values,” said Noah Shack, CIJA vice-president, Greater Toronto Area.

“By all reports, the WCAI event is highly unlikely to attract more than a small gathering of followers. Groups like WCAI crave publicity and would welcome a high-profile confrontation. We have reached out to city officials and law enforcement to coordinate and share our concerns. We urge counter-protesters to exercise caution and follow the instructions of police to ensure their own safety and public order.

“Anyone with information or concerns regarding potential threats or criminality should contact the police and file a police report accordingly.”

B’nai Brith said in a statement that it would “closely monitor” the rally. The group also said it had raised its concerns with Canadian law enforcement agencies and those responsible for threats to national security.

“We hope and pray that nothing even close to what happened in Charlottesville last year will be repeated in Toronto,” Mostyn said. “We can’t help but be concerned.”

The white supremacists who organized last year’s march in that Virginia city were denied a permit to reconvene there. However, they have been granted permission to gather in Washington, D.C., on Sunday evening at Lafayette Park, near the White House.

Sunday is Aug. 12, the day of the march last year that included outbreaks of violence and culminated in a car-ramming attack on counter-protesters that killed one person and injured at least 20.

This report includes additional information supplied to the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.

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