Parents accuse Peel police of inaction following anti-Islamic protest outside school

A parent in Peel region says she wants police to do more in the wake of an anti-Islamic protest last Friday. While the protest did not get violent, tensions escalated to the point of shouting as a high school student confronted a man asking, "What's wrong with you guys?"

Police say protesters entitled to freedom of speech, no crimes committed

Student confronts protester outside John Fraser Secondary School in Mississauga. (YouTube)

Parents in Peel region say they want police to do more in the wake of an anti-Islamic protest last Friday. 

While the protest did not get violent, tensions escalated to the point of shouting as a high school student confronted a man asking, "What's wrong with you guys?" 

The man proceeded to call the student a "rapist" as police stood by. There were no arrests. 

Parents in Peel region are calling on police to protect children. 

Shaila Kibria wants police to take action. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

"[The protesters] have gone too far. Something should be done before anything happens," said concerned parent Shaila Kibria. "All it takes is one person to watch [the protest] and do something crazy." 

The protest outside John Fraser Secondary School was just the latest in a series of incidents involving the Peel District School Board. 

Since September, some protesters have taken issue with the school board's policy that has accommodated Muslim students who want to perform Friday prayers inside schools for nearly 20 years. 

Kibria, whose children do not attend John Fraser but who has been active in lobbying police to take further action against protesters, is concerned that police did not make any arrests last Friday.

"All these hateful acts add up. Why is it going on for months? The community is actually losing faith in police," she told CBC Toronto. "It's time the police recognize these are actually hateful acts and targeted toward the Muslim community and our children." 

Other Peel parents have signed an online petition calling for the arrest of Kevin Johnston, who earlier this year offered a reward to Peel students to spy on their Muslim classmates during Friday prayers. Johnston was at Friday's protest at John Fraser.

But Staff Sgt. Valerie Graham with Peel Regional Police says there was nothing criminal about the protest.

"Our officers didn't find anything had occurred that was either a hate crime or any other criminal offence," said Graham, noting it happened on public property. "Anyone is entitled to freedom of speech.

"We have a very strong relationship with our Muslim community." 

But students dispute that, saying they worry the strong words and chanting may escalate. 

"If we keep letting this thing to be justified and allowed, it just gives people more leeway to say more things that are negative because there's less consequences," said Kamil Ahmed, a recent graduate of John Fraser. 

Police in urban centres 

Bernie Farber, executive director of the Mosaic Institute, notes police in "major urban centres" are much more used to dealing with issues of racial intimidation and racial bullying because they've had to deal with it over a period of many years.

Bernie Farber says racially-motivated violence is at a 'major peak' in both the U.S. and Canada. (Lisa Xing/CBC)
 

"When it comes to Peel, they really only had to deal with it in the last few years," he said. "They don't seem to understand the need to take a strong stand. They've stood by passively and done nothing." 

Criminal defense lawyer Annamaria Enenajor agrees.

"It's a very challenging jurisdiction for equality issues," she said. "Based on previous cases, [it seems] they're reluctant to recognize systemic racism that works in the criminal justice system." 

Farber thinks there are grounds to charge the protesters under the hate crime provision.

"I'm highly disturbed a group of adults would find it acceptable to go in front of a high school, and bully and intimidate children."

By the numbers

Peel police provided CBC Toronto with statistics pertaining to hate crime investigations in the region. 

In 2015:

  • 63 occurrences of hate/bias crimes.
  • 15 resulted in charges.

In 2016:

  • 59 occurrences of hate/bias crimes.
  • 19 resulted in charges.

About the Author

Lisa Xing

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller, dabbling in camping, canoeing and crafting. Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.