By Renata D`aliesio, Calgary Herald
Calgary Herald: Calgary West MP Anders under fire from Muslim group over political pamphlet
September 9, 2009
A political pamphlet from Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders that urges changes to federal human rights legislation has raised the ire of Calgary`s largest Muslim organization, which views the dispatch to residents as inflammatory and divisive.
David Liepert, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Calgary, contends Anders crossed the line and made inaccurate statements unfairly targeting the Muslim community in a pamphlet that arrived earlier this month at some homes in the Calgary West riding. The longtime MP, however, disputes the contention that his pamphlet is inflammatory.
In an Anders communique, one of 10 different versions mailed out, he claims: "It is now illegal to hold opinions that offend radical Muslim activists," and "under section 13 of the so-called `Human Rights` code, Canadians have been prosecuted for holding personal beliefs which offend radical Muslim Imams and liberal activists."
"He`s basically spread misinformation among his constituents about a large proportion of his constituency because there are many Muslims living in his area," Liepert said Tuesday. "Any time you have a politician who, for political gain, targets a minority group with disinformation, it`s something that I think needs to be addressed."
The Muslim Council of Calgary, which is an elected body representing 10 mosques and 60,000 Sunni Muslims in the Calgary area, has voiced its concerns to Anders` office. The group has also invited the MP to attend a mosque in the riding Friday to discuss the matter and for Ramadan iftaar, a fast-breaking dinner.
Anders hasn`t yet decided whether to accept the invitation. He said he stands by the text of his pamphlet.
"You can`t take into account overreaction. You have to state the facts in the case as you see it," he said. "We were very careful to be very factual."
The Calgary West Conservative MP is attempting to drum up support to scrap section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which deals with complaints about hate messages disseminated over telephone or the Internet.
"It`s fair-minded of us to question Section 13 and its restrictions on the freedom of speech, particularly in light of the decisions that have come down as of late," he said, citing human rights complaints against Macleans magazine and Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard magazine.
Anders also pointed to a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision this month that found section 13 is an unconstitutional violation of the Charter right to free expression because of its penalty provisions.
However, Janet Keeping, president of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, noted several factual errors in a copy of the disputed Anders` dispatch. She said she considers the statements about Muslims "needlessly inflammatory."
"There`s a couple of things that are really quite disturbing about this piece of literature. One is that it`s not very accurate. There are places in which it`s worded in a very loose and misleading sort of way," said Keeping, whose organization also wants section 13 removed from the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Liepert said the pamphlet was initially flagged by a Muslim resident in Anders` riding who received the human rights missive. The council has since received several more complaints, he added.
Anders`office faxed to the Herald a different version of the pamphlet --one that doesn`t focus on Muslims.
"The one I sent you was the one we had extras of," he explained in an e-mail. "There are 10 different versions sent out to 10 different parts of the riding. Each one has to be 50 per cent different than the next to satisfy House of Commons publishing guidelines."
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