May 15, 2008
Arab Community Centre of Toronto
555 Burnhamthorpe Road, Suite 209
Etobicoke, Ontario M9C 2Y3
To Whom It May Concern:
As members of the Justice for Alwy (J4A) Campaign, we wish to express our dismay and condemnation at the decision of the Executive Director of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, Laila Bondugjie, to block our organization from speaking at their May 3rd conference, ‘Arab and Muslim Identities on Trial: Youth Step Up and Speak Out.’
Following the murder by Toronto Police of 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir on October 31st, 2007, his family, friends and allies came together to demand justice and to educate others about police brutality. Since then they have been spreading their message and speaking out against police brutality with the help and support of many community organizations and allies.
After hearing us speak out at one of our events, we were approached by a staff member at the Arab Community Centre in charge of organizing the conference. This individual thought Alwy’s story and our message against police brutality was a perfect fit for a conference on Arab and Muslim youth. Afterall, Alwy was a young Arab and Muslim man who was murdered by the Toronto Police.
J4A Campaign members readily agreed to participate and were busy preparing until we were contacted a couple of days before the conference. We were told that the Executive Director of the Arab Community Centre did not want us to speak because of ‘liability issues.’ She further expressed the opinion that our message was too ‘political’ and that we might offend the ‘Arab’ community, the RCMP and others who were in attendance at the conference.
We asked ourselves the question, how can a conference on Arab and Muslim Youth not be political in the current in the current atmosphere of Islamophobia in our society? Which ‘Arab’ community is she referring to, given that Alwy and his family are Arab Canadians? Finally, we must ask, was the conference organized for the RCMP or for Arab and Muslim youth?
Upon further investigation, we found out that the Arab Community Centre of Toronto is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and has received funding from the City of Toronto’s Access and Equity Advisory Committee.
Once again, as with Regent Park Communtiy Centre South, a government funded entity has closed its doors in our faces. We are more and more coming to understand that entities funded by the government cannot be relied upon to be apolitical organizations, and thus can not fully serve the people and the communities under whose name they work.
We find the behavior of the Executive Director, Laila Bondugjie, unacceptable and shameful. We demand a full explanation as to why we were barred from speaking at the conference. We can be contacted at email@example.com.
Justice for Alwy Now!!!
Members of the Justice for Alwy Campaign