By Carla Wintersgill
A Ryerson Students’ Union presidential candidate is drawing fire for testing the limits of political correctness.
Chris Fortin, a third-year biology student, has been criticized by other candidates for his involvement with the now-defunct Facebook group “I’m a White Minority @ Ryerson,” which was widely condemned as racist.
“We cannot have anyone who has views that are borderline racist,” said Muhammad Ali Jabbar, former RSU president who is campaigning for the position again.
But Fortin denies that the White Minority group was racist, claiming that its condemnation was because it did not fit in with what he calls the RSU’s narrow view of political correctness.
“We need less focus on what people can and can’t say and more of a free marketplace of ideas,” said Fortin, who is running because he believes that the RSU polarizes every issue.
He criticizes the RSU for using resources to support international causes, such as the boycott of Israeli apartheid, rather than issues that affect students daily. “You can’t pretend that it’s not anti-Semitism,” Fortin said.
But being a part of the White minority group isn’t Fortin’s only controversial Facebook association.
On his profile, he has posted a link to a blog called “Islam Exposed,” which is self-described as a “site to expose all the evils of Islam.”
The link has since been removed. Fortin has also posted a link to a news story about suicide bombing, commenting that it was another one of the “brutal little footnotes to the global atrocity that is Islamism.”
Fortin also denies that he is Islamaphobic. “I have a problem with all extremist religions,” said Fortin. “If people are intolerant to my intolerance for intolerance, than so be it.”
Shamim Ahad, Fortin’s common-law wife and campaign manager said he is being misunderstood.
“If I thought that he was a racist we wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes, never mind years,” said Ahad, whose father is Muslim.
“You can join things just to see what they’re saying,” she said about Fortin’s involvement with the White Minority group, adding that she is a member of a group that denies the existence of global warming although she doesn’t agree with them.
“Chris wants to get to the root of what they’re saying. You can’t debate if you don’t join.”
The Facebook group “I’m a White Minority @ Ryerson” was started in early November 2006 and was quickly denounced by the RSU, which was then led by Jabbar.
The group then changed its name to “I’m a White Minority @ a Toronto University” before disbanding in late March 2007.
Members of the group maintain that it was only meant to be a joke.
Jabbar blames the on-campus intolerance on the lack of funding for anti-Islamaphobia education. “Unless you are educating people, you’re going to have this coming up,” Jabbar said.