A fascinating story has developed through the intention of a group of Canadian followers of Iran's late Ayatollah Khomeini to use City of Toronto facilities for an event to demonize Israel.
The Canadian Shia Muslim Organization (CASMO) is the sponsor of an al Quds Day dinner and seminar set to take place the evening of April 26 at the city-owned and operated Scarborough Centennial Centre. CASMO is a group that made the news last April when they were publicly excoriated for posting anti-Israel videos from the racist former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke on its website.
After that humiliation, CASMO has since been a little more careful to pay lip service to the language of tolerance. While they now proclaim "No to anti Semitism" on their website, their other pronouncements belie that by expressing support for the anti-Semitic terror organization Hezbollah and their support for the regime of Iran's Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Al Quds Day, the event that CASMO plans to celebrate on city property, was created by the deceased absolute ruler of Iran's Islamic Republic, the Ayatollah Khomeini, for the purpose of promoting organized vilification of Israel in the Islamic world.
CASMO has held al Quds Day events in City facilities before, but it only came to the attention of Council members when it became a recent subject for bloggers in Toronto.
This week, upon learning that the event was to take place on city property and was a potential violation of the City's Anti-Discrimination Policy, Mayor Rob Ford's Office and a number of City Councillors including Councilors Doug Ford and James Pasternak, wanted to put a stop to it. For that to happen, a ruling on compliance with the City's anti-Discrimination Policy was required and that was initially left to Uzma Shakir, the Director of the City's Office of Equity, Diversity and Human Rights.
Councillor Pasternak said "There is no way that this group (CASMO) should be allowed to hold an event on City Property. The nature of the group indicates that they could not possibly comply with the City's values of respect and tolerance. I'm dismayed that a City facility would consider allowing this event to take place and am doing what I can to stop it happening."
However the event will indeed take place. The Mayor and Councillor Doug Ford have expressed their deep disappointment in the ruling made late Thursday afternoon by the City Manager; that CASMO's evening of deploring the middle east's only liberal democracy can go ahead at the Centennial Centre. Councillor Ford's office voiced disgust with the ruling and made the statement that, "We don't believe City facilities should be allowed to be used by one community to denounce another."
Sources at City Hall have said that Ms Shakir's initial notes suggested that she felt that the CASMO al Quds Day event did not violate the City's anti-discrimination policy. Upon learning of this, the Mayor's Office and Councillor Ford placed intense pressure on City staff to re-examine the initial decision and the City Manager made the final decision based on reports and recommendations from Ms Shakir and other staff.
However in a surprise twist, it turns out that Ms Shakir, whose recommendations influenced the final decision, had written an editorial for rabble.ca, the radical leftist website that is the "media sponsor" of Israeli Apartheid Week, in which she criticized Federal Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney for defunding the Canadian Arab Federation due to alleged anti-Semitic statements from its leadership and its support for terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. She has also expressed support for allowing Sharia Law in Family Courts in Ontario.
Ms Shakir's recommendations regarding CASMO's use of City property were reached in consultation with City lawyers and staff and there is no evidence that she was motivated by anything but a desire to determine fact in the matter.
But at least one Council member has expressed concern about the optics of this decision being influenced by a staff member who has made statements such as those made by Ms Shakir, who also acted as a spokesperson for a coalition that campaigned against the City renewing the contract of its then Chief of Police, Julian Fantino, in 2004.
For now, CASMO's evening of anti-Israel rhetoric will go ahead as scheduled. However the group was given a stern warning from City officials that if anything resembling hate speech occurs during their al Quds Day program on City property, they will be not receive any such approval for any event in the future. In an unprecedented move, the City is going to send a Supervisor to monitor CASMO's al Quds Day Seminar at the Centennial Centre to ensure that they comply with City policies.
The Mayor's office worked hard to attempt to revoke permission for the anti-Israel event, but the City's updated anti-Discrimination Policy, which requires that groups using city property comply with the principle of promoting respect, tolerance and diversity has not yet taken effect, and the determination about the al Quds Day seminar was made using the old policy.
The Mayor's Office issued a statement saying that "a positive outcome of this is that we see the need to establish clear guidelines for use of city property in the future and we're determined to make sure that happens soon. The new guidelines will give us better tools to deal with situations such as this."