An Islamic youth conference in Montreal has been canceled by the convention center where it was to be held, amid calls by a Quebec minister to bar event speakers from coming into the country.
The city’s largest convention center, the Palais de congres, announced on Saturday that it would drop the conference, entitled Between Heaven and Earth, which was scheduled for next week. The center said in a statement that the decision was made after a “security review.” Reports say there were plans of demonstrations to be held outside the center. The youth conference has been met with criticism from Quebec’s Minister for the Status of Women Agnes Maltais. The minister has asked the federal government to ban some of the speakers from entering the country since they “do not respect equality.” President of the Muslim Council of Montreal Salam Elmenyawi said that Maltais had no right to ask the government to refuse the speakers to enter Canada. Elmenyawi said earlier that Maltais should have contacted the organizers prior to going to the federal government asking for the travel bans. Maltais is one speaker from France who has in an online video promoted the wearing of the headscarf. A spokesman for the organizers, Ishaq Mustaqim, also said on Friday that the conference has been unfairly targeted and it did “not promote hate or violence toward women or any other group.” The Quebec government is set to propose a religious headwear ban, including headscarves, kippas and turbans for public workers. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has said that the ban would be a culmination of a long secularization process of Quebec’s public institutions and a move forward for everyone “who chose Quebec for our culture, for our freedom and for our diversity.” However, critics say the proposal is an attempt by the government to distract voters from more important issues such as jobs and the economy.