An Ontario school board is condemning a "hate-filled" online campaign that's offering a $1,000 cash reward for a video of Muslim students praying.
The reward was put forward by Kevin J. Johnston of a right-wing publication called Freedom Report. He has been staunchly opposed to Peel District School Board's policy, which has allowed Muslim students to pray privately in school once a week for the last two decades.
In a YouTube video posted this week, Johnston calls the school board "treasonous and cowardous, and anti-Canada and anti-women" for allowing the Friday prayers. He goes on to say that sermons at the service, which typically last less than 20 minutes, could be "full of anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-infidel" statements because they could be given in Arabic.
But because he has no evidence of what he calls hate speech, he's offering the cash to anyone who will "sneak a camera" into a school and record students praying. He says the video must contain hate speech and identify students — who would likely be underage.
"Am I incredible, or what?" asks Johnston, while proposing to pay someone to break privacy policies.
The school board issued a reminder Friday that personal devices can be used in schools only for educational purposes, as directed by staff. "Violations of this policy and school codes of conduct are subject to progressive discipline."
The board also reiterated its support for Muslim students: "The Peel board values inclusion — we stand with our Muslim community and all those who join together for inclusion in rejecting this cruel campaign."
On Friday, students in both elementary and secondary schools were sent home with a letter that outlined the board's plans to remain "extra vigilant" with supervision in the coming days.
Trudeau speaks on the issue
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the issue Friday, while at an event in Toronto.
"Canada move must beyond tolerance to acceptance," he told reporters. Trudeau added that openness to others is what makes the country a "beacon of light and hope" around the world.
Anti-Islam groups have been pushing the Peel school board to ban Muslim prayers in schools for months. The board maintains that accommodations for prayer — which is required under the Ontario Human Rights Code — do not disrupt classes and are not costly.
Last week, police had to intervene after a school board meeting erupted into a protest by those calling for the prayers to end. One protester ripped a Qur'an into pieces, and stepped over its torn pages, while others shouted at school board trustees.
Peel Regional Police told CBC News it is tracking the ongoing issue, and will be investigating Johnston's YouTube video.
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