Stu Henry, Red Deer Public School District Superintendent; Dan Lower, Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School principal; and Bruce Buruma, school district director of community releations, speak with protesters Tuesday morning. (File Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s welcoming network speaks out against ‘hateful’ protest

The Canadian charter is not a shield against discrimination, says group

A Red Deer group is speaking out against prejudice and the spread of misinformation following an anti-Muslim protest this week in front of a local high school.

The protest against so-called “Islamic terrorism in our schools” is an example of fear mongering by a “very small number of people,” who are unwilling to educate themselves about other religions — or even Canadian laws, says a release by the Red Deer Welcoming and Inclusive Communities Network.

“It’s nothing short of disappointing, and is exactly what the Red Deer WIC Network is working against,” stated the release signed by the group’s co-chair Pamela Taylor.

The network was formed in 2015 after the City of Red Deer signed an inclusively agreement by the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. The community-based group includes a municipal representative, but works at arm’s length from the city.

Taylor said intolerant, misinformed people — many of them from out-of-town — have tried to promote hatred this week at a protest launched in front of Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School after some Syrian-born students got into a fight with other students.

The superintendent of Red Deer public schools decided to speak out after misinformation was spread about the Syrians getting lighter punishment than the others. Superintendent Stu Henry stressed that both sides received equal suspensions — but a protest was held anyway.

Taylor is disturbed that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was used by some of the protesters to try to justify their discrimination. The network’s release states that that while some protesters sought to shield their hatred behind the Charter’s protection of free speech, beliefs and expression, the Charter also holds religious freedom as a fundamental Canadian right — including that of Muslims, Jews, Hindus and all other minorities.

The Network noted that parts of Sharia Law that are being opposed will always be illegal under Canada’s Criminal Code, “so people don’t need to continue fear mongering around that… We’re asking Red Deerians to be smarter than that.”

Taylor praised the efforts of the Red Deer public school district to diffuse the situation and to promote tolerance.

She said her group is always willing to reaching out to anyone who wants to discuss inclusiveness and diversity. For more information about the network, please visit www.facebook.com/RedDeerWIC.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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