A Muslim leader in Winnipeg wants schools to make anti-racism education part of the curriculum when students return in the fall.
Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA), says she worries about what children will face when they go back to school after a summer that has seen number of racist incidents in Manitoba and abroad.
Siddiqui said she is crafting a letter that she intends to send to school divisions and teachers. It will ask them to talk to their students about racism as part of their regular lessons, and not simply on a single day set aside to discuss human rights.
"We need our diverse school body of students to be talking to each other, to be understanding and caring — that it's not just the issue of visible minorities, that is the issue for all of us," Siddiqui told CBC News.
Verbal attack captured on video
In a video posted online, a Muslim woman from Calgary was verbally attacked in early July by a stranger after she stopped to ask for directions in a parking lot near Seven Sisters dam.
The man told the woman, who wears a hijab, to take her "head towel off" because it "supports Muslims" and told her to "go back to your country." The man also called himself a "Nazi."
The incident ended after two women who were passing by confronted the man, which Siddiqui said shows the importance for bystanders to intervene when they see attacks like this happening.
"Many times people, what they don't realize is that when Muslim women are targeted, mothers are targeted. There are children that are witnessing this and it is also impacting them. And they don't have the ability to articulate how they're feeling, and so they are internalizing it," Siddiqui said.
"That has always been my concern, and still is, as to what happens in this new school year, with all that has happened? Are the teachers ready to have a discussion about this? What are the children going to face?"
Racist graffiti and counter-demonstrations
Last week, racist and anti-Semitic graffiti was found scrawled in several public places, including along Wellington Crescent, in Omand Park and on a bridge at The Forks.
That came days after a rally of neo-Nazi's, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va.
Several cities across Canada have seen rallies by anti-migrant and anti-Muslim groups met with large counter-demonstrations. Over the weekend in Quebec City, far-right demonstrators hid inside a parking garage for hours after fights with counter-demonstrators.
In July, someone defaced public signs in Neepawa with racist graffiti targeting Asian people.
After hearing that a group called World Coalition Against Islam - Canada was planning a rally in Winnipeg, Siddiqui said, she and others formed plans to hold an anti-racism demonstration on Sept. 9.
"We need to show that this kind of hatred,this kind of messaging that this group is bringing is not welcome," she said. "It's not the voice of Winnipeg."
Siddiqui hasn't settled on a location yet, but said details will be shared through social media.
Anti-Islam groups hide behind slogans of free-speech, when really they promote hate speech, Siddiqui said.
"When we don't stand up and we don't speak out, people who bring these kinds of hateful messages and try to divide us as Canadians get the impression that people agree. Silence becomes agreement and is taken as such, or that we are afraid, and we want to show them that we're not."
ISSA has also planned a series of public events to educate the public about Islam and Muslims. The event, called Islam 101, begins Sept. 12 at the Millennium Library and includes a panel to answer any questions people have about Muslims and their faith.
Sincere questions are welcome, as long as it's done "in the spirit of learning," Siddiqui said.
Siddiqui said she hopes to have the letter to schools ready on Thursday.