Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Islamophob­ia has no place in Canada

Time to show this in actions, not just words

- PATRICK BROWN Special to National Post Patrick Brown is the Mayor of the City of Brampton in Peel Region, Ontario.

What happened in London, Ont., on June 6 was horrific, and sadly this tragedy was not an isolated incident.

Whether it is in London, Peterborou­gh or Quebec City, hate crimes against Muslims are real and a reminder that there is still much work to do in Canada.

After the senseless massacre in Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2017, I had Muslim friends who couldn't sleep for fear of going out in public the next day wearing a hijab and facing hate or targeted violence.

A few weeks later I was eager to rise at Queen's Park as leader of the Opposition and support a Liberal MPP'S motion on Islamophob­ia. I was enthusiast­ic to support the motion and even more proud to stand in the provincial legislatur­e and declare, “Islamophob­ia is real, and we have to condemn it unreserved­ly.”

It was disappoint­ing to see 91 federal MPS in Ottawa subsequent­ly vote against the same motion, which passed nonetheles­s. Islamophob­ia can't be a partisan issue. It's about what is right and what is wrong.

For me, it was very straightfo­rward. Islamophob­ia is not a difference of opinion. I couldn't comprehend how it had become a politicall­y polarizing issue.

My best friend growing up was of Muslim faith. His family was no different than mine other than the god they worshipped.

But I learned early on, he faced bias and hate simply because of the faith he was born into.

As a younger man I travelled internatio­nally with a Muslim friend quite often, and when flying back to Canada I'd cringe knowing he would undergo enhanced security checks while they wouldn't give me a second glance.

On the two-year anniversar­y of the attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, Brampton city council unanimousl­y passed a resolution proclaimin­g Jan. 29 as a day of remembranc­e and action on Islamophob­ia. In Brampton we honour and remember the victims of discrimina­tion, and fight intoleranc­e.

There are many reasons why bias and hate grow, but the most troubling emanate from the chamber of the extreme far right. In Canada, right-wing extremists broadcast falsehoods, play on emotions and pander to the worst in society.

Islamophob­ia is disgusting.

The London terrorist attack against the Afzaal family, killing all but a nineyear-old as they were out on an evening stroll simply because they were Muslim, was cowardly, heinous and cruel.

Crimes in Peel Region motivated by race or nationalit­y increased by 54 per cent from 2018 to 2020. Yet, despite these numbers, our justice system continues to have an incredibly high threshold for anyone to be prosecuted under hate-related laws, and as a result, it is not achieving the desired aims.

The Criminal Code of Canada does not specifical­ly define what constitute­s a “hate crime” as a chargeable offence, and what is laid out only provides a judge the ability to hand down harsher sentences based on their perception of a perpetrato­r's motivation. In Peel, only onethird of the Criminal Code offences designated by police as hate or bias-motivated crimes resulted in Criminal Code charges being brought forward in 2020.

Javeed Sukhera, chair of the London Police Services Board, and Ahmad Attia, chair of the Peel Police Services Board, recently wrote, “It's time to arm our justice system with the necessary tools to root out hatred, and to hold accountabl­e those who perpetrate hate crimes. It's time to remind far-right extremists and terrorists that our country will not tolerate their hate-motivated crimes and rhetoric. The human cost of our inaction would be too great to bear.”

We need more accountabi­lity in the justice system.

Additional­ly, if there was ever a time for federal leaders to speak up against Quebec's ban on religious symbols for public-sector workers through the province's Bill 21, it's now.

Whether it be with a hijab, yarmulke, turban or any other religious garb or symbol, Canadians have a right to express their faith. The government of Canada can't simultaneo­usly be against Islamophob­ia in English Canada and allow it in Quebec.

Two years ago, Brampton council quickly and unanimousl­y passed a motion to support a legal challenge against Bill 21. We would not be bystanders to hate; we reject it and we encouraged other municipali­ties to join the fight.

Canada must be a country where no one fears recriminat­ion based on their faith.

Brampton is deeply grief-stricken and outraged by this most recent hate crime. It was heartwarmi­ng to see such an outpouring of love, support and strength at the vigil for London's fallen this past weekend in Brampton.

Islamophob­ia is a scourge on our society. It does not belong in Canada, and we need to erase it.

We can be a nation that celebrates religious freedom, not only in the words of our Charter, but in the reality of our society.

We must embrace, not shun, celebrate, not denigrate, love, not hate.

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 ?? ALEX FILIPE / REUTERS ?? People attend a rally in Toronto on Friday against Islamophob­ia, sponsored by the Muslim Associatio­n of Canada, in
the wake of the attack on June 6 in London, Ont., which killed almost an entire Muslim family.
ALEX FILIPE / REUTERS People attend a rally in Toronto on Friday against Islamophob­ia, sponsored by the Muslim Associatio­n of Canada, in the wake of the attack on June 6 in London, Ont., which killed almost an entire Muslim family.

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