Supporters and critics of motion condemning Islamophobia clash in Toronto

By Adrian Ghobriel

Two separate ideologies and two very different opinions on Canadian values clashed at City Hall on Saturday.

Supporters and opponents of a Parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia were met by a heavy police presence aimed at keeping the two sides apart.

The heated exchange began when the Canadian Coalition for concerned citizens, a group criticized as anti-Islamic, announced their intentions for a protest at City Hall. In direct response a “stand against Islamophobia” rally was also announced. It began an hour earlier with a large crowd of supporters.

The tension was soon very obvious as Canadian Coalition members arrived on the opposite side of Nathan Philips Square.

Behind a police barricade, the outnumbered Coalition waved Canadian flags, even tossing a burka in a can along with a copy of the Quran.

Adding fuel to an already fiery afternoon, the scene grew even more tense as members of the controversial group Soldiers of Odin arrived, wearing their patches and showing their support.

There were similar tense moments in the streets of Montreal as between 100 and 200 people held parallel marches.

On one side, some protesters carried signs calling for free speech and waved the flags of right wing groups that have sprung up in Quebec recently, while their opponents chanted anti-fascist slogans and expressed support for immigrants and Muslims.

Despite police efforts to keep the two sides apart, some isolated scuffles occurred between the two sides as tempers flared.

Police say there were no arrests or injuries.

An Ontario Liberal backbencher, Iqra Khalid, brought forward the motion in Parliament last year, and since then she has received numerous racist and sexually derogatory emails that were laced with expletives.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, who prominently backed the motion, also found herself on the receiving end of similar kinds of messages.

The Opposition tried to pass an amendment last month removing the word “Islamophobia” from the motion, saying it singles out one religious group over others.

But the Liberals used their majority to block the effort.

In Calgary, a group of about 15 people reportedly gathered outside city hall to protest the parliamentary motion but were outnumbered by dozens of counter-protesters.

Demonstrators on both sides shouted at each other in Regina. Police were present but the event remained peaceful.

Files from The Canadian Press were also used in this report

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