Toronto to hear religious freedom appeal December 10

TORONTO: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) will present the appeal of Voices of the Nations to the Board of Management for Yonge-Dundas Square on Thursday, December 10, 2015, at City Hall at 2:00 p.m.

This past October, the City of Toronto denied the Christian group Voices of the Nations (VOTN) its right to continue using Yonge-Dundas Square for its annual musical performance.  In a legal warning letter, the JCCF warned the City that its decision, based on a policy against “proselytizing”, violates freedom of religion and freedom of expression as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Voices of the Nations describes its mission as “to provide a venue and unite the various denominations, cultures and the outstanding talents within the Christian community” and “to embrace and celebrate the wonderful diversity in the city.”  Held the first weekend in August, this annual event showcases the talents of numerous performing groups and artists from a broad cross-section of the Christian community.

On October 22, 2015, Natalie Belman, the Manager of Events for Yonge-Dundas Square told VOTN that VOTN had violated the City policy against “proselytizing”:

Well it doesn’t matter if it’s speaking or singing.  Either way if you’re praising Jesus or praise the Lord, and there’s no God like Jehovah, that type of thing? That’s proselytizing.

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 including Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (April 20, 2015); and numerous Pride events.