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Suspension follows Facebook comments

Aug 21 2012
Victoria police spokesman Mike Tucker: "Are the comments made in jest?" 

Victoria police spokesman Mike Tucker: "Are the comments made in jest?"

Photograph by: Darren Stone , timescolonist.com

A commissionaire who allegedly posted anti-Muslim comments on Facebook suggesting the Masjid AlIman Mosque on Quadra Street should be blasted with a rocket launcher has been suspended with pay, the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires said Monday.

The controversial comments, posted Thursday by Facebook user Dan Speed on the I Love Downtown Victoria Facebook page, have now been removed.

Speed's profile, which stated he provided security for the Canadian Coast Guard and worked for the Department of National Defence, appears to have been deleted.

"The Commissionaires is an organization that values diversity in our community and we have commissionaires from all backgrounds, so any expression of intolerance like this is unacceptable within our values and probably contrary to specific policies we have for conduct of commissionaires," said John Dewar, the corps' chief executive officer for Victoria, the Islands and Yukon division.

Dewar said the commissionaire is suspended with pay pending the outcome of the corps' investigation. "If it is determined there was inappropriate behaviour, then corrective action will be taken, up to and including dismissal."

The commissionaires are not involved in a criminal investigation, Dewar stressed. "We are really just looking at it for suitability for employment."

Speed has been employed by the commissionaires since 2009, he said.

Victoria police spokesman Mike Tucker said investigators interviewed a suspect, but the individual was not arrested or charged.

"It's an ongoing investigation," said Tucker. "We have been talking to people at the mosque and in the Muslim community to see what they want to have addressed and to bring them up to speed on the investigation."

Police are looking into whether the alleged threat meets the threshold for a hate crime, he said.

The challenge for police officers is to determine what's an offhand comment and what's a direct threat, said Tucker.

"Are the comments made in jest? Are they just stupid comments? Even if they are distasteful and inappropriate, does it constitute a criminal act?" asked Tucker. "It's a tough balance to determine if it is a crime."

Police often see people who know each other making threats against each other on Facebook.

"But this message-board type thing is not very common. It's not something we have to deal with a whole lot," he said.

Police say they are taking the comments seriously. "I don't think there's any social appetite for something like this," said Tucker.

The 80,000-strong Muslim community in B.C. is also taking the threat seriously, said Musa Ismail, president of the B.C. Muslim Association.

"At the same time, we are aware that sometimes people do make comments and we are hoping he made an offhand comment and that's the end of it," said Ismail, adding the association is happy to leave the matter in the hands of the Victoria police.

The new mosque is replacing two smaller buildings on the same site with a larger, more comfortable place of worship.

Muslims have been living peacefully in Victoria for 50 years, Ismail said, but have been rattled by the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin and other incidents in Toronto, Calgary and New Westminster.

"I don't want to say people are taking potshots at Muslims only. It's not just Muslim places that are being abused. Synagogues are sprayed with graffiti.

Stones are thrown at Sikh temples. Sometimes, it is my Jewish brothers. Sometimes, my Christian brothers."

The government should put out a "real message" saying it will no longer tolerate places of worship being targeted, he said.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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