Dundas Square is a public square situated in Downtown Toronto , it is a prominent landmark in Toronto and has hosted numerous public events, performances and art displays since its completion in 2002.
All manner of artists and community organizations apply to use the space at Dundas Square every year . From LGBT activists to Pot addicts , from Hindus to Muslims , the square has seen it all over the years
In fact , A Toronto based Muslim organization dedicated to propagating and converting people to Islam, is operating a portable Dawah booth at the square almost everyday, with no trouble from either city bureaucrats or the police.
Voices of the Nations is a christian organization founded in 2006 to unite and promote diversity within the Christian Community by showcasing its mosaic of fine arts and music .
Every year for the past five years it has held a music festival in Dundas Square without any issues .
This year was no different and the August 1st event was a great success with performances from children’s choirs and popular Christian bands singing well known christian songs .
However , On October 23 , the group was shocked when city officials told them they would not be given a permit to hold the festival next year because praising Jesus in their song’s lyrics contravenes the city policy against “proselytizing.” (proselytizing means to try to persuade someone to switch to your religious beliefs) .
The Square’s Manager of Events Natalie Belman told the group :
It doesn’t matter if it’s speaking or singing. Either way, if you are “Praising Jesus”, and “Praise the Lord”, that type of thing, that’s proselytizing and that’s a big issue for us , that from the stage, is not acceptable.
In response to this , The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has issued a legal warning letter to the City of Toronto and calls on the City to reverse its decision to deny the Christian group continued use of the square . They wrote :
This Decision constitutes a direct violation of the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion which are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We request that you immediately reverse this Decision and approve VOTN’s application. Failure to do so will necessitate a court action against the City of Toronto and the Yonge-Dundas Square Board of Management (“YDS”) for its censorship of expression and its violation of religious freedom.
The City of Toronto has had no qualms about the interactive chanting of Hare Krishna mantras at Yonge-Dundas Square (June 7, 2015); a candlelight vigil against Islamophobia (February 13, 2015); a rally in support of legalizing marijuana (April 20, 2015); and numerous Pride events.
On Thursday December 10th , the Centre for Constitutional Freedoms will present an appeal to the Board of Management for Dundas Square hoping they will reverse the decision .
Sadly for Christians , this is not an isolated incident .
All this is taking place among a crackdown on christians in the City .
Last year, a Christian pastor named Rev. David Lynn was charged by police with illegal “busking” for singing Christian songs in the square .
On the other hand , back in April , a Muslim University student Omar Albach, went on the square and played loudly the Muslim Adhan (Call to Prayer) in Arabic on a side walk which is illegal in Canada as it is considered noise pollution . Omar Albach was not arrested, was not warned off by the police and his equipment was not taken .
On November 9, petitions with over 40,000 signatures in support of religous freedom were delivered to the office of Toronto Mayor John Tory .
On November 21 , a rally in support of religious freedom was held in the square .