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Muslim officials in London, Ont., add their voice to national anti-Islamophobia recommendations

Giving hate crimes their own section in the Criminal code, a curriculum review and a national fund for victims of Islamophobia are among the recommendations made by Muslim officials ahead of a National Summit on Islamophobia this week.

Leaders spoke at London Muslim Mosque Monday ahead of National Summit on Islamophobia July 22

People walk beside a hearse as the procession arrives at the funerals for Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman. They were killed in what police are calling a terror attack in London, Ont. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Criminal code amendments to better deal with hate crimes, a curriculum review and a national fund for victims of Islamophobia are among the recommendations made by Muslim officials ahead of a National Summit on Islamophobia this week. 

The summit was called after the June 6 attack on the Afzaal family in London, Ont. The family was out for an evening walk when they were hit by a truck, a hit-and-run police later said was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.

All 3 levels of government called upon to take action against Islamophobia

2 months ago
2:52
Ahead of the National Summit on Islamophobia, National Council of Canadian Muslims CEO Mustafa Farooq outlined what he wants each level of government to do to help fight Islamophobia. 2:52

Four members of the family were killed; the youngest, a nine-year-old boy, survived.  

"This summit is not, should not and cannot be the end. It is simply a means from which we expect tangible change to take place at all levels of government," Nusaiba Al-Azem, a London lawyer and vice-chair at the London Muslim Mosque, said Monday.

"There's no excuse for inaction. Community members who are experts have painstakingly crafted over 60 tangible, concrete recommendations that would go a long way towards eradicating hate."

The summit will take place Thursday, and there's an expectation that "change will swiftly follow," Al-Azem said. 

"Real change is the true and the only measure of success and accountability of this summit, so that we can all collectively ensure that no other community will ever have to open its doors to tens of thousands of mourners like we did here in London on June 8th."

In the wake of that inter-faith gathering, the federal government said it would host a National Summit on Antisemitism on July 21 and a National Summit on Islamophobia on July 22, part of Canada's anti-racism strategy. 

Actions, not words

Those calling for change say they will hold governments to account, asking for more than just tweets and words of support, but tangible actions as well, said Mustafa Farooq, the CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), which revealed the recommendations Monday morning. 

"The reality is that Canada has suffered more mass killings motivated by Islamophobia in the last five years than any other country in the G7. This cannot be allowed to continue," Farooq said. 

"This body of recommendations was compiled after talking to hundreds and, in fact, thousands of Canadian Muslims in consultations from coast to coast, with a diversity of Canadian Muslims along the lines of gender, race and class."

"We need to see action and we need to see it now. Governments attending the summit must know that we want more than their attendance. We want to see their commitment to timelines."

Yumna Afzaal, 15, left, Madiha Salman, 44, centre left, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, right, were out for an evening walk when they were run over by a man who police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Submitted by Afzaal family)

The policy recommendations released today are broken down by federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Funding for a National Support Fund for Survivors of Hate-Motivated Crimes.
  • An investigation into national security agencies and how they deal with white supremacist groups, and whether they have infiltrated those agencies.
  • New provisions in the Criminal Code around hate-motivated assault, murder, threats, and mischief that include specific penalties corresponding to each infraction.
  • A federal anti-Islamophobia Strategy by the end of 2021.
  • Funding for Muslim storytelling.
  • Provincial legislation that bars white supremacist groups from rallying on provincial property. 
  • A review of school curriculum with an anti-Islamophobic lens, and resources for Muslim students. 
  • Municipal street harassment bylaws that address verbal assault. 
  • Local community-based anti-Islamophobic initiatives and anti-Islamophobia advisory councils. 

Farooq also called on ordinary Canadians to do their part in making sure elected officials keep their word. 

"I think every single Canadian needs to pick up the phone and call their local representative and say, 'What are you doing to stop this?' The reality is that attacks on racialized minorities, whether it's attacks on Muslims, Indigenous folks, Asian folks, Black folks, Jewish folks, it implicates every single one of us as Canadians. Every single Canadian has an obligation to stand up and say it's not just that we stand with our London family in solidarity in merely an intentionality sense, but we stand with them to actually get things done." 

The accused in the London, Ont., attack faces four first-degree murder charges, one attempted murder charge and associated terrorism charges. The 20-year-old has not yet entered a plea. 

Thousands of people gathered for a march Friday night in London, Ont., a multi-faith show of solidarity for the Afzaal family, four of whom were killed June 6 in a hit and run that police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Travis Dolyny/CBC News)

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