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World RCMP aware of online threats against Alberta mosque posted around time of New Zealand shooting

Members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada gather at the Baitul Islam Mosque during a special prayer for the victims of an attack on Muslims at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in Vaughan, Ont., on Friday, March 15, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

The RCMP says it is aware of online threats against a Fort McMurray mosque made on a controversial Facebook group at around the time of mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand Friday that left at least 49 worshippers dead and dozens more wounded.

The threats were made on the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page, in the comments section of a post sharing a 2015 Globe and Mail article about the opening of a multicultural mosque in the Alberta city. Some Facebook users called for the Markaz ul Islam mosque to be burned down and blown up, while another called for the mosque to “have a pig roast on opening day;” pork is forbidden in Islam.

Corporal Caroline Duval said the RCMP is aware of the social-media posts and takes “all such threats seriously.” She encouraged anyone with information about possible criminal threats to national security to immediately contact the RCMP.

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The threatening post has since been removed from the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group. Facebook would not say who removed the post.

“We do not tolerate harassment or credible threats of violence on Facebook and it’s our aim to prevent any potential real world harm that may be related to content on our platform," said Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy. "That’s why we remove content, disable accounts, and use a combination of technology, reports from our community and human review to enforce our policies.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on March 15, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page is lively, with nearly 110,000 members and hundreds of posts a day. The group describes itself as an advocate for free speech and Canadian sovereignty, and a vocal opponent of globalism.

The Markaz ul Islam mosque did not respond to a request for comment about the threats Friday.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Kelowna, B.C., Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Canadian security officials are in constant talks with technology companies to ensure their platforms are not being used to spread hate or issue threats. He said Canada’s national-security agencies are also monitoring all forms of extremist threats, including those from “right-wing, neo-Nazi, ultra-white-supremacist” groups connected to attacks such as those in New Zealand.

Mr. Goodale says there is no reason to raise Canada’s national terrorism threat level in the wake of the the mosque shootings in New Zealand. He said the threat remains unchanged at “medium,” where it has been since October, 2014.

“On the basis of everything they [security officials] know now, all the facts and the input they would have received over the long term but also the most recent 24 hours, there is no basis upon which to change the threat assessment for Canada,” he said.

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“If something changes in the future, security officials will make the appropriate judgement call.”

Mr. Goodale said police were checking in with mosques across the country Friday to ensure their safety and security after the New Zealand attack.

Extra security was on hand for Friday afternoon prayers at the Baitun Nur Mosque in Calgary, Alberta, March 15, 2019.

The Globe and Mail

The minister said “hatred, Islamophobia and right-wing extremist violence” have no place in any society and that everyone should be able to practice their religion peacefully. He said Canada stands in solidarity with New Zealand, reflecting on a similar attack at a Quebec City mosque in January, 2017, that killed six people.

Friday’s massacre in New Zealand was caught on camera and live-streamed to Facebook, via a helmet-mounted camera. The video was posted under the name Brenton Tarrant, who identified himself as a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

With reports from The Associated Press

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