On March 31, 2017, The Peel District School Board (PDSB) issued a statement condemning “the actions of an individual who this week released a video inciting students to secretly videotape Muslim students participating in Friday Prayer in return for money.”
PDSB’s statement refers to a video posted on March 29, 2017 by Kevin J. Johnston, a Mississauga independent journalist who is an outspoken opponent of introducing any religious sermons in public schools.
The following is the text of the video in question:
You’re probably all aware that we have a treasonous and cowardice and anti Canadian and anti woman Peel District School Board, and for everybody around the world, Peel Region has three cities within it, my hometown Mississauga, to the north is Brampton, to the north is Caledon, and all of this is to the immediate west of Toronto. These people are going out of their way to allow Islamic prayer in public schools, forcing girls to sit in the back of the room during those prayers and denying menstruating girls even access to the room itself. This is what is happening in Canada right now. And these sermons that are going to be offered are allowed to be offered in Arabic and the people that are being paid to watch over them also speak Arabic and are most likely Muslim themselves, meaning that the sermons are going to be full of anti Jewish anti Christian anti infidel and Kafir (Arabic for infidel) rhetoric. I am offering a thousand dollars of my own money cash reward for any of you out there that can sneak a camera into any of these Musketeer-ious or mosque stages or mosque gymnasiums and get me the footage. If it leads to any hate speech, because we will have it translated. I don’t just have Sandra Solomon. I have numerous Arabic speakers now, some of the Muslim, willing to translate these Arabic sermons. If we find any hate speech in there, and you’re kind enough to tell us the students name, the school and the date you record it, it’s a thousand dollars cash. I will hand it to you and I’ll even let you wear a mask when I do so. Am I incredible or what? The Peel District School Board is obviously not listening to all of you Canada and specifically you Peel Region. We pay taxes to have our schools turned into madrassas [Islamic schools] and mosques. Well, it’s not going to happen because I’m going to give you cash, my own savings, if you get us the evidence that we need to put these kids and the imams and Janet McDougald in jail for hate speech and inciting hatred in our public schools which are supposed to be centers of education and free thought, not mosques. This is a serious offer people, get your cameras, hide them, hide them in the rafters, hide the behind the basketball nets, hide them in your own clothes, pretend to pray, whatever it takes get that Timmy, got it? Kevin Jay Johnson, FreedomReport.ca.
— CIJ News English (@CIJNewsEN) March 17, 2017
In response the Peel District School Board stated the following:
Clearly, this individual is trying to bribe students as an incentive to breach privacy laws. The video itself prejudges our Muslim students in a way that is both unfair and untrue.
This is hate-filled showmanship by someone who wants attention for an ongoing attack on valued members of our school community. It is a campaign that encourages hatred, and makes our students, staff and community feel unsafe and targeted. That is simply wrong.
The Peel board values inclusion—we stand with our Muslim community and all those who join together for inclusion in rejecting this cruel campaign.
While we condemn this hate-filled action, we will not provide a spotlight for his circus of hate. We will not be commenting on this campaign or this individual beyond this statement. It simply provides him with attention for his campaign of hatred.
For those interested in facts, including that the sermon is delivered in English with a staff supervisor present, please see our #KeyFacts about religious accommodation.
Yesterday we made our school administrators aware of this video, and asked for them to remind staff of the need for vigilance. Specifically, “personal devices can only be used in schools for educational purposes, as directed by staff. It is important that you make staff who supervise Friday prayer at your school aware of this challenge and ask them to be extra vigilant in their supervision and that this invasion of privacy is not appropriate.”
Today, an announcement was made at all secondary schools, and a message was sent to all elementary and secondary parents to make them aware of the following information posted on all school websites:
Important information about inappropriate video being shared online
We wanted to let you know that we have been made aware of a highly inappropriate video that is being shared online that challenges individuals to secretly videotape Muslim students participating in Friday prayer. This is a clear violation of privacy and will not be tolerated in any Peel District School Board school.
To say that we are disappointed and disheartened by the contents of the video is an understatement. Not only does the video prejudge our Muslim students in a way that is both unfair and untrue, but it also encourages the inappropriate behaviour of other students in our school communities.
As outlined in the Peel board’s Safe Schools Policy, we actively promote school environments that are free from the unethical use of technology, hate-related behaviour and language, and harassment and discrimination. In addition, personal devices can only be used in schools for educational purposes, as directed by staff. Violations of this policy and school codes of conduct are subject to progressive discipline. Please ensure your child/teen understands their obligations.
Together, we can stand against injustice, and work to ensure everyone feels safe, welcomed and included in our school communities. Thank you for your support.