Islamophobia has no place in Canada
Time to show this in actions, not just words
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.