LILLEY: Beware of police diversity units

By Brian Lilley

In Canada you have free speech -- at least until the authorities say you don't -- and this week one such authority used his power to trample all over that fundamental freedom.

A talk at a synagogue just north of Toronto had to be moved after a member of the "diversity unit" of the York Regional Police Force essentially threatened the rabbi in charge.

The synagogue had been rented by a group called the Jewish Defence League so they could host free-speech advocate and anti-jihadist Pamela Geller.

Insp. Ricky Veerappan, one of York Region's finest, decided he didn't like what Geller might say so he paid a visit to Rabbi Mendel Kaplan of the Chabad Flamingo synagogue.

Kaplan is one of the chaplains of the York Regional Police, and Veerappan made it clear that if Geller appeared at the synagogue then Kaplan would lose his position.

Rabbi Kaplan's response should have been to show Veerappan the door and remind the inspector that we live in a free country and until someone breaks the law they are innocent.

Unfortunately, he did not. He understood the implied threat and told the event organizers that the booking was cancelled.

"Some of the stuff that Ms. Geller speaks about runs contrary to the values of York Regional Police and the work we do in engaging our communities," Veerappan told QMI Agency.

Quite frankly inspector, you offend me but you are still in your job. Police are supposed to enforce laws, not enforce unwritten and vague "values" of the community. Veerappan told QMI Agency some members of the Muslim community complained to him that Geller would be speaking and he stepped in.

What Veerappan has done is assume Geller will commit a crime and acted to make sure she could not do that. It's not like she was planning a terrorist attack that had to be stopped, she was simply going to speak about radical Islam and jihad.

Fortunately for free speech, the organizers have found a new venue, the Toronto Zionist Centre -- the talk will go on albeit outside of the jurisdiction of York Region's values enforcers.

That a police officer threatened a rabbi if he did not cancel an event with a speaker the cop did not like should outrage everyone.

Yet outside of several blogs and some limited media coverage, such as QMI Agency and Sun News Network, the media is silent.

Salim Mansur wrote to York Region Police Chief Eric Jolliffe to demand better. Mansur started off by telling the chief that he was a Muslim and a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario.

"I am appalled that ... we continue to hear regularly how the liberal democratic tradition of Canada and the West is being systematically shredded by institutions sworn to protect it," Mansur wrote. And he's right. It's shocking that Prof. Mansur needs to school a police chief in Canada about freedom of speech.

From the recent Whatcott decision at the Supreme Court to vexatious complaints about values, free speech is under attack in Canada.

If we don't stand up and defend it, we're going to lose it.

brian.lilley@sunmedia.ca

 


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