The Peel District School Board is calling a video offering a $1,000 reward for recordings of Muslim students during Friday prayers as simply “hate-filled showmanship” and an attack on the school community.
“Clearly this individual is trying to fund students as an incentive to breach privacy laws,” Peel District School Board spokesperson Brian Woodland said in an email on Friday. “And the video itself prejudges our Muslim students in a way that is both unfair and untrue.”
Kevin J. Johnston, who said he is opposed to religious accommodation in public schools, professes in his three-minute long video posted on his YouTube channel that the offer is serious and he promises to hand over the reward in person.
The video asks students to submit the footage within 24 hours of filming and be willing to give up ownership of it to Johnston.
“If we find any hate speech in there, and you’re kind enough to tell us the student’s name, the school and the date you recorded it, it’s $1,000 cash,” he said. “I will hand it to you and even let you wear a mask when I do so.”
Johnston defended the video to Global News, insisting he’s not a racist but rather a proud Canadian.
He also doesn’t believe he’s infringing on any privacy laws, saying he’s “unconcerned” with them.
“At this point, I want to make sure our schools remain hate free.”
When asked why he believes students may be spewing hate speech during these prayers Johnston said, “There are too many imams in North America who are being caught on hidden camera just like I have proposed who are spewing hate, and they’re doing it to children.”
The Peel board, which governs schools in Caledon, Brampton and Mississauga just west of Toronto, recently released a fact sheet around Muslim Friday prayers in the hopes of clearing up confusion following a decision earlier this year to reverse a policy denying students the right to write their own sermons.
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The fact sheet explains that religious accommodation has been taking place in Peel schools for over 15 years and is required under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Imam Ibrahim Hindy, of the Dar-Al Tawheed Islamic Centre, is concerned as to what kind of behaviour the video might provoke or incite.
“There’s a lot of fear right now and anxiety and what this is going to mean,” said Hindy to Global News. “Is it going to be people trespassing onto schools? What kind of hatred and potential violence could this incite?”
“These religious accommodations have been taking place for 25 plus years, probably much more than that, and there’s never been an incident the board has told us.
“They’ve never heard of an incident of hate being propagated.”
Woodland said a memo was sent to school administrators this week making them aware of the video and for staff overseeing the prayers to be vigilant of any recordings.
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“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,” the memo read.
“We’ve also been made aware that students are currently circulating an email amongst themselves that warns them of Kevin’s video.”
The board also said the local police have been notified of the video. Peel Regional Police told Global News their Diversity Unit is looking into it.
“This is hate-filled showmanship by someone who wants attention for his ongoing attack on members of our school community,” Woodland said.
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