OTTAWA — The federal government is hosting a summit on Islamophobia today following a series of violent, targeted attacks that killed or injured Muslim Canadians and left communities across the country in shock.
Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger says the summit will be an opportunity for Muslim Canadians to express their ideas and insights on how Ottawa can stop these attacks and implement policies that protect their communities.
She says there is a need for more work to protect Muslim communities against hate and discrimination fuelled by Islamophobia and the government has worked with national Muslim-led organizations to convene the summit.
Members of Parliament unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government to convene an emergency summit on Islamophobia on June 11, a few days after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured.
A spate of hate-motivated attacks targeted several hijab-wearing Muslim women in Alberta in recent months. Last September, a Muslim man was stabbed to death while volunteering in a Toronto mosque.
Nusaiba Al-Azem, a vice chair of the London Muslim Mosque, says Muslim communities expect tangible change from all levels of government to address rising anti-Muslim hate.
She told reporters in London, Ont., on Monday that she feels particularly strongly about Quebec’s secularism law, known as Bill 21, that prohibits some public sector workers including teachers, police officers and judges from wearing religious symbols at work.
Al-Azem says that she, as a visibly Muslim female lawyer, would be forced to choose between either practising her faith or her profession if she moved to Quebec and worked for the office of the Crown.
She says the federal justice minister should be involved in all legal challenges of Bill 21, which she described as a “discriminatory law which disproportionately targets religious minorities including our Jewish and Sikh brothers and sisters.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims released 61 recommendations to fight anti-Muslim hate across Canada ahead of the Islamophobia summit.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the NCCM, says the federal government currently doesn’t have any specific resources or strategy specifically aiming to fight Islamophobia.
He says his organization’s calls for action include urging the federal government to create an office of a special envoy on Islamophobia and to invest in a specific anti-Islamophobia strategy.
“Simultaneously, the federal government needs to commit to fighting Islamophobia at the systemic level within government through looking at profiling at the CRA of Muslim-led charities, or how national security agencies have continued to profile Canadian Muslims and other racialized minorities,” he says.
He says provinces should commit to anti-Islamophobia strategies in education and should create provincial hate-crime accountability units.
“We need to see action. And we need to see it now,” he says. “Governments attending the summit must know that we want more than their attendance. We want to see their commitment to timelines.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press