(In the photograph above, John Tory and James Pasternak pose with 30 Israeli students visiting Canada in March 2015.)
March 22, 2019
On March 21, 2019, I spoke at Toronto City Hall on behalf of the organizing committee of the Al Quds Day rallies in Toronto.
The Al Quds organizers, who give their time freely to defend Palestinian human rights, have been smeared repeatedly by advocates for Israel, particularly Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak.
Pasternak has an extensive history of seeking to silence Israel’s critics. As reported by Now Toronto, Pasternak led the charge at Toronto City Hall to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. Pasternak has also condemned Israeli Apartheid Week.
Like Pasternak, Mayor John Tory works closely with the pro-Israel lobby groups, including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). In 2016, in cooperation with CIJA, Tory led an “Innovation Mission to Israel.”
With the support of Mayor Tory, Pasternak is now seeking to prevent Al Quds rallies from taking place on Toronto City property, in violation of the constitutional rights of my clients to free speech and free assembly.
Pasternak launched his initiative in November 2017 by seeking advice from city staff on ways to counter ‘hate-infested’ rallies on city property. This month, after more than a year of careful consideration, city lawyers and staff advised the Executive Committee that the city’s existing policies with respect to hate rallies are essentially adequate.
But when it comes to silencing Israel’s critics, James Pasternak and John Tory will not take ‘no’ for an answer. On March 21, 2019, they persuaded an embarrassingly compliant Executive Committee to send Pasternak’s inquiry back to city staff for further consideration.
This is the video of my 5-minute speech to the Executive Committee and of my exchanges with Mayor Tory and Pasternak following my speech:
Also speaking at the Executive Committee meeting in defence of the Al Quds rallies and Canadians’ civil liberties were human rights lawyer Stephen Ellis, human rights activists Karen Rodman and Karin Brothers, and author Michael Keefer.
All of the speeches and the ‘debate’ that followed them can be seen here: