Saskatoon

Sask. Muslim community 'a lot more active' in federal election than ever before

Muslim community members, both with and without citizenship, are engaging with candidates in Saskatoon more than they usually do, in part because candidates are reaching out, and in part because the community is seeking information about issues that matter to them.

Five candidates have visited the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) to pitch their platforms

Nisa Bano has been working a booth at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) and says her community is paying close attention to platforms, especially when it comes to immigrant issues. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

School just finished for the day and Nisa Bano can barely keep up with the stream of people walking up to her booth in the entrance of the Saskatoon Islamic Centre.

She's handing out stickers and pamphlets and answering questions about the upcoming federal election.

Ever since the writ dropped, the community has been talking about issues that matter to them. And they've asked local candidates all about them.

This time around, the community expects a bigger voter turnout than ever. Even newcomers who can't vote are engaged.

Bano is the regional coordinator for Islamic Relief and runs social justice groups on the University of Saskatchewan campus where she studies.

Among the people approaching her booth was a child asking for a sticker.

"He was like, 'My mom says that we can't vote yet because we're not Canadian citizens,'" said Bano

"I said 'Make sure you're still telling people that you know who can vote and one day you will be able to,'" she said.

She handed him a sticker before he went back to his mother.

'This time I'm really excited'

Nisa Bano's booth is across from the NDP and Green Party's  stations. The Liberal, Conservative, and People's Party candidates came out last week.

The space in between is filled with people, including dozens of children running around and playing.

Elections have always been important to the community, but Religious Affairs director Taseen Desin can't remember a time when the excitement was this palpable.

He has lived and worked in various fields in Saskatoon for 22 years.

Nisa Bano wears a a sticker reminding her community to vote based on issues that are important to them. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

"Those parties that are involved don't always reach out to communities so they may feel they're being left out," said Desin

"For myself, this time I'm really excited too. I can't wait to vote this time."

Like Bano, the young people in Desin's life are excited. His children aren't old enough to vote but they begged to watch the debates with him.

Immigration, Islamophobia top of mind

Immigration has always been important to the Islamic Association which represents 62 different nationalities in the community.

Party platforms vary when it comes to refugees and immigrants in Canada. In recent years, immigration has increased and in 2018 Canada accepted 321,045 immigrants — the highest number on record since WWI.

This number may decrease, depending on which party rises to power. Some leaders, though, have expressed frustration with the backlog of immigration and refugee claims. 

Any change will affect this community.

Taseen Desin has lived in Saskatoon for 22 years and says his community is more engaged than it has ever been this election. He credits this in part to higher-profile campaigns using television ads and social media like Facebook and WhatsApp. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

For some Saskatoon families, relatives are still waiting to gain entry into Canada.

Bano suggests that people with more privilege try to support marginalized communities.

"We've been encouraging that you have your own opinion and finding out what the policies are, what's at stake for us and you," Bano said.

Recent events, like photos depicting Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau's history of blackface, have brought racism to the fore, including some conversations Bano classifies as Islamophobic.

It's just  an apology that we're getting, and that's about it - no other effects and no other action is being taken.- Nisa Bano on Islamophobia and racism in this federal election

"There are political leaders who are going out and saying things like Islam is pure evil," she said. It's important to hold leaders to account, she says, no matter the party.

"A lot of people are saying things and it's just an apology that we're getting, and that's about it — no other effects and no other action is being taken."

Bano says in her community, "it's not taken lightly."

About the Author

Bridget Yard

Reporter

Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.