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Vancouver "anti-Islam" rally organizer talks views, criminal history

The organizer of what he describes as an “anti-Islam” rally set for this weekend in Vancouver says he’s not promoting racism, but instead, public safety and crime prevention. But, he told Postmedia, his own past criminal convictions should not disqualify him from becoming a self-appointed advocate for law and order.

Joey De Luca, one of the organizers of a controversial rally scheduled for Saturday afternoon outside Vancouver City Hall, said Thursday: “It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about, not necessarily all Muslims, but Justin Trudeau’s policies, he’s flooding our country full of these people and it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens here, and that’s what we’re concerned about.”

De Luca, a 33-year-old Calgary resident originally from B.C., represents a group called the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam.

He said not all refugees in Canada are criminals, “but there has to be a percentage of them that are.”

B.C. court records show Giuseppe “Joey” De Luca was found guilty in 2010 of possession of controlled substances for the purpose of trafficking, stemming from an incident in Nanaimo when he was 26. Asked Thursday how he reconciles his new role as a law-and-order advocate with his own criminal convictions, De Luca said: “That was the past. That was seven years ago, and I’ve got a whole different life now.” He declined to talk in more detail about the case or answer what kind of drugs were involved.

More recently, in 2013, De Luca was convicted of assault causing bodily harm following an incident in Burnaby, court records show, an incident which he described this week as self-defence, but which led to a breach of his probation condition to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

When a private citizen finds themselves in the media, it is not necessarily newsworthy, relevant or fair to bring up their past, including criminal convictions.

However, De Luca said he understood, given his new, self-appointed role as a public commenter on crime prevention and safety, why a journalist would report on his criminal past (which is a matter of public record) and ask him questions about it.

Canada is safer than many other countries, De Luca said, but added: “For now it is, but what happens with all this carelessness, with open borders? I mean people need to be checked and vetted before they come in to make sure they’re safe. That’s the whole point of national security.”

(South of the border, The New York Times reported this year,several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the U.S.”)

Though De Luca’s event comes a week after a rally in Charlottesville, Va., which drew white supremacists who violently clashed with counter-protesters, he said his event was unrelated.

When asked if it would be prudent to reschedule now in light of what happened in Charlottesville, De Luca said: “It’s important to have it now because I’ve already got my ticket to come out there, and we already made all the arrangements … It would be easy to cancel it and everything, but that would just make us look bad too, like we’re cowering or something.”

De Luca commented on a Postmedia story this week reporting people apparently connected with his group posted celebratory, mocking images online regarding the death of Heather Heyer, a civil rights activist killed last weekend in Charlottesville when a driver allegedly plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters.

De Luca was unhappy about the story, but when asked if it contained any inaccuracies, he did not point to one. The man who posted the offensive content online, De Luca said, “made us look really bad, so I told him he’s not welcome at our rally.”

De Luca, when asked what he thought of his own Italian ancestors being viewed in Canada as unwelcome at one point, dangerous adherents of a strange foreign religion, said: “It was a different time, different standards.”

There has been debate among academics, journalists, and members of the public, about how the media should cover events and organizations such as De Luca’s. 

Barbara Perry, an expert on hate speech from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, said: “For too long, we’ve ignored them. And I think that that’s one of the things that’s enabled them, and allowed them to organize and operate underground. So I think shedding a light on those shadows is so important.”

There is a risk that ignoring hateful speech and views could be construed as indifference or even approval by the people espousing those ideologies, said B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson.

“The fact is these causes appear to be gaining increasing traction, so they need to be spoken up against,” Paterson said. “We can’t ignore it.”

dfumano@postmedia.com

twitter.com/fumano

— With files from Nick Eagland

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