Hamza Chaoui's Islamic community centre won't get permit

Controversial imam Hamza Chaoui will be denied a permit to establish his Islamic community centre in a borough in east-end Montreal, something civil rights lawyer Julius Grey says is beyond the city's powers to do.

Civil rights lawyer says city overstepped bounds by denying permit to so-called 'agent of radicalization'

Hamza Chaoui's permit denial stirs debate

7 years ago
Duration 2:44
Controversial imam denied permit for Islamic community centre in Montreal, but some lawyers say the city has no right to stop it

Controversial imam Hamza Chaoui will be denied a permit to establish his Islamic community centre in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a borough in Montreal's east end.

Chaoui is a Moroccan-born imam in Montreal with controversial views on Shariah law and ties to suspected radicals. 

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Hamza Chaoui is an 'agent of radicalization' on Jan. 31, 2015. (CBC)
Borough mayor Réal Ménard, who spoke at Montreal City Hall along with Mayor Denis Coderre on Saturday morning, said Chaoui was never given a certificate of occupation to begin holding meetings at his community centre.

Chaoui did apply for a transformation permit in January to renovate the building in question, Ménard said. However, he began promoting his community centre on Facebook before ever being granted a permit.

Not a clear and present danger, lawyer says

Ménard said it was part of his job as borough mayor to prevent Chaoui from carrying out his activities, a position Coderre agreed with.

"I don’t want to stigmatize the Muslim community. This is the work of one person," Coderre said. "This man is an agent of radicalization."

Civil rights lawyer Julius Grey says the city doesn't have the right to prevent Chaoui from expressing his views and opinions. (CBC)

However, Montreal civil rights lawyer Julius Grey said the city doesn't have any jurisdiction in the matter.

"This is not the city's business," Grey said. 

He said the only way the city could justify its interference in the establishment of Chaoui's would-be community centre is if there were a clear and present danger.

"But if the idea is general security, then the city has no jurisdiction," Grey said.

Coderre used the news conference on Saturday as an opportunity to voice his support for Bill C-51, the federal government's new proposed anti-terrorism legislation. He said he asked the federal government to expedite its passage.

The anti-terrorism bill unveiled Friday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper includes a section that gives his government the power "to order the removal of terrorist propaganda" from the internet.

Who is Hamza Chaoui?

Hamza Chaoui's east-end Montreal Islamic community centre will not be granted the permits needed to open it, according to the city. (CBC)

​Chaoui has connections to radical Islamists.

He has preached at the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu mosque attended by Martin Couture-Rouleau, the Muslim convert who killed warrant officer Patrice Vincent in October.

Chaoui was also the leader of a Muslim association at Laval University. One of that association's members, Chiheb Esseghaier, is about to be tried on charges related to a plot to derail a Via Rail train travelling between Toronto and New York two years ago.

Chaoui uses social media to share his fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. He has posted to YouTube and Facebook his views sympathetic to Shariah law, and he advocates that women should have designated guardians.

"There are non-Muslims who come to our home and tell us, ‘Really, you cut off heads, you cut off hands?' But that’s religion. It’s our religion in our own country. We decide how we implement it," he said in a YouTube video which has since been made private.