After a series of violent attacks against Canadian Muslims, Canada hosts a national summit on Islamophobia
By Maryam Razzaq
Canadian Muslims hope for a better future in Canada as the first federal anti-Islamophobia summit was held Thursday after a rise of deadly attacks against the Muslim community in Canada.
After the June 6 attack that took the life of all but one young boy of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, which authorities say was motivated by anti-Muslim rhetoric, Canadians MPs voted unanimously in favour for a motion that called for a national summit to be held. A similar summit was held by the Canadian government again antisemitism this past Wednesday.
More Canadian Muslims have been killed in target hate crimes in Canada than any other G7 country in the past five years. There have been many Islamophobic and anti-Muslim hate crimes in the past several years in Canada. These include the Quebec City Mosque attack, the killing of Mohamad-Aslim Zafis at a Toronto mosque, violent attacks on hijab wearing women, and several hateful rallies held in front of mosque. The list goes on.
There were many Canadian Muslim groups that attended the virtual summit to discuss possible proposals to combat Islamophobia within Canada. In addition to this, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), who had a lead role in the summit released 61 policy recommendations, which included:
- Provide anti-bias training and greater guidance to government officers
- Mandate in regulation that anti-Islamophobia training becomes mandatory continuing education for all judges
- Institute a provincial Hate Crimes Accountability in all provinces
- Establish anti-racism councils or panels across provinces that represent a diverse intersection of community voices, including Muslims
- Study of the failure of national security agencies to deal with white supremist groups
- Ministries of Education should work with school boards and local Muslim communities to develop anti-Islamophobia curriculums
“While we have heard many words from politicians condemning Islamophobia and standing in solidary with Muslims in Canada, action to tackle Islamophobia has been slow and piecemeal. We cannot stand by and see any more lives lost. Islamophobia is lethal and we need to see action now,” said the NCCM.
“A place where we celebrate diversity, where we stand together, we look out for each other. That’s the promise our country must work hard to live up to because too many times and for too many people, that promise has been broken.” said Prime Minister Trudeau
He further discussed the crucial need to fight the rise of misinformation about Islam and Canadian Muslims with education to ensure the safety of all Canadians.
“As many of you have pointed out, part of the path forward must be a public service that is inclusive rather than diverse. I’m here to list to you on what our next steps should be to continue building a country where everyone is welcome, safe and respective. This is not a burden to carry alone as a society. This is everyone’s responsibility to take on.” Added Trudeau
Even so, many Canadian Muslims do not feel welcomed in Canada. Nusaiba Al-Azem, Vice Chair of the London Muslims Mosque talked about how she feels marginalized by the passing of Quebec’s secularism law, Bill 21.
This Bill prohibits some public sector workers ranging from law enforcement officers to teachers, and judges from wearing any sort of religious symbols at their place of employment. Religious symbols like the Hijab which is worn by Muslim women, have been said to be the main catalyst that lead to the passing of Bill 21.
Al-Azem added she would like to see Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti, be involved more involved in the legal challenges of Bill 21 which is believes to be a “discriminatory law which disproportionately targets religious minorities including our Jewish and Sikh brothers and sisters.”
In April 2021, Quebec’s Superior court ruled in favour of upholding the majority of the secular law, it did however strike down sections pertaining to English educational institutes, as it would violate their minority language rights under the section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom.
Although the federal government had signal concerns about the law, they were unwilling at the time to intervene as it was in the middle the 2019 federal election. The summit to combat Islamophobia does confirm the Trudeau governments commitment to a more inclusive Canada, it is however unlikely the Mister of Justice will intervene in the affairs of Quebec with the eminent call of an August election and their favourable standings in the provincial polls.
That being said, immediately after the Quebec Supreme court render its verdict on Bill 21, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), and Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) joined forces and launched another legal challenge against Quebec’s secular law.
While Muslims across the nation have doubt and caution about how the government will work towards tackling anti-Muslim rhetoric, the anti-Islamophobia summit has blossomed a sense of hope for Canadian Muslims towards a better future with positive change.