New charter to help Muslim residents feel safer in Waterloo region

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention council hopes adopting a new Charter for Inclusive Communities will head off anti-Muslim sentiments that appear to have jumped north of the border after the U.S. election.

Waterloo region is home to just under 20,000 Muslims

Sarah Shafiq, of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, says signing the Charter for Inclusive Communities is a first step in helping Muslim residents feel safer and more comfortable in this community. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council hopes adopting a new Charter for Inclusive Communities will head off anti-Muslim sentiments that appear to have jumped north of the border after the U.S. election. 

"There's a real, sort of, concern that rhetoric will spill over, and already we have seen a number of incidents," said Sarah Shafiq, community-at-large member with the council and member of the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW.

"Islamophobia, it's a huge industry," Shafiq told The Morning Edition's host Craig Norris on Wednesday.

A study by the Center for American Progress in 2011 revealed seven charitable groups gave $42.6 million to Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009.

"So if it's being done deliberately, we have to counter it deliberately as well," she said. 

See Islamophobia? Say Islamophobia

The charter was created by the National Council of Canadian Muslims to draw attention to Islamophobia

"When we're talking about racism and discrimination, many times we don't even use the term Islamophobia. So this sort of brings our attention to this term, and then recognizing that this exists," Shafiq said.

Shafiq said she hopes this will get people, particularly those in power and in politics, to use the word.

Our Commitment

By signing this Charter, we commit to standing up for the rights and dignity of everyone in order to promote inclusive, just, and respectful communities in Canada. We strongly affirm that:

  • Islamophobia, like all other forms of racism, hate, xenophobia, and bigotry, has no place in Canadian society.
  • Discrimination and acts of hate against anyone, marginalize individuals and communities and exclude them from participating fully in society and fulfilling their potential.
  • The dignity of every person in Canada is essential to a healthy and vibrant society.
  • Everyone in Canada has a role to play in creating safe environments for us all.
  • All levels of government, civil society, communities, and public officials have a duty to work together in developing policies, programs and initiatives to reduce and eliminate Islamophobia in all of its forms.
  • By working together, we can nurture inclusive communities and strengthen our shared commitment to Canada's values of equality, respect, justice, and the dignity of all persons.

There are just under 20,000 Muslims in Waterloo region.

A Canada-wide survey conducted this year by Environics shows one in three say they have experienced discrimination in the past five years. 

"Naming the issue of Islamophobia can be an important educational opportunity," wrote Christiane Sadeler, executive director for the council, in a report to the region's community services committee Tuesday.

"While signing a charter is a low level commitment it can also be an important first step in advancing an important dialogue and call for action."