An event intended to bring more awareness to the public about Saskatoon’s Muslim community has turned into something extremely ugly over social media.
In the hours and days that followed Islam awareness day at Saskatoon police headquarters last Wednesday, officers say their Facebook page was plagued with racist comments, even death threats. That prompted them to issue this post on Friday, asking for unacceptable comments to stop.
The comments came on the heels of an open house dedicated to diversity and held by members of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan who admitted to feeling misunderstood.
“We’re hoping that when people meet us face-to-face and meet the true Muslims they’ll see we’re not the terrorist that you hear about,” Hanen El Bardouh said.
Still, keyboard warriors took to social media slamming the police service with a slew of concerning comments, even death threats.
According to Meagan Bortis, a Saskatoon lawyer with Little & Company, freedom of expression is perfectly fine and protected under the charter but hate speech isn’t.
“It’s meant to cause more than distress to the person it’s directed towards,” Bortis said.
“Generally directed towards a person or protected group and is generally on the scale somewhat of racism all the way to violence.”
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In the last year, people in this province have been warned multiple times by RCMP to be mindful on social media when it comes to the Gerald Stanley case.
On Friday, RCMP announced Tyrell Eric McKay, 30, of Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask., had been arrested in connection to this social media post. Remanded over the weekend, McKay made his first court appearance on Monday.
“You can be charged with uttering threats and there’s also a provision of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code not to use such negative speak towards other groups,” Bortis added.
Charges that at times are hard for police to lay, when they have to pin down the person who used the profile that day, then the Crown needs to prove it.
In this particular case, police said there was no need to make an example out of someone with charges, they’d rather educate with kindness and help people see there’s more to the world than hate.