National Council of Canadian Muslims reveals anti-Islamophobia recommendations
'Islamophobia is lethal and we need to see action now,' council says
In the wake of multiple, lethal attacks on Canadian Muslims in recent years, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has released 60 policy recommendations to combat hate and racism across the country.
The recommendations, which include Criminal Code amendments to better deal with hate crimes, a curriculum review and a national fund for victims of Islamophobia, come in advance of a national summit on Islamophobia this week.
"We cannot stand by and see any more lives lost," the council said in a statement released Monday.
"Islamophobia is lethal and we need to see action now."
News conferences were held on Monday in Toronto, London, Ont., Quebec City and Edmonton to announce the recommendations.
Anti-Muslim hate attacks in those cities in recent years include the June 6 hit-and-run on the Afzaal family in London, Ont.; the fatal stabbing of volunteer caretaker Mohamed-Aslim Zafis outside a Toronto mosque last September; the January 2017 attack on a mosque in Quebec City where six men were killed and dozens of others were seriously wounded; and at least six hate-motivated attacks on Black and racialized Muslim women in Edmonton in recent months.
Mohamed Labidi, the co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque, told a news conference on Monday morning that Islamophobic acts are escalating and becoming more frequent.
"We are the best positioned to give solutions to the government to fight Islamophobia and hate in general," Labidi said. Muslim people, he said, are "in the thick of it" when it comes to facing hatred in Canada.
Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said at another news conference in London, Ont., that governments have a role to play on this issue.
"At the level of the federal government, we need to see a commitment to enshrine the fight against Islamophobia within government."
The policy recommendations released Monday are broken down by federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. Some of them include:
Funding for a proposed 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.
At a news conference in Toronto on Monday, Nina Karachi-Khaled, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said officials must take into account the street harassment, verbal assaults, online hate and cyberbullying that Muslim women face in Canada.
"Women who wear headscarves are afraid to leave their home. That fear is palpable, and they are easily identified by their clothing," she said, adding that during something as simple as a walk to the bank, women are forced to look over their shoulders in fear.
"This is not a normal thing, and this should not have to be a normal thing," she said.
In June, MPs voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for a national summit on Islamophobia following the attack in London, Ont. It will be held on Thursday as part of Canada's anti-racism strategy.
The same day that motion passed, the federal government also announced it would hold an additional summit on antisemitism. It will be held on Wednesday.
"There are many Canadians of all backgrounds who have been abiding allies of Canadian Muslim communities and diverse communities in general," the NCCM said.
"This is clear in the outpouring of support after Islamophobic incidents through messages of condolences and hope, human shields around mosques at prayer times, lawn signs to provide comfort as families go for walks and solidarity in demanding change. Thus, while there is no doubt that we have a problem with Islamophobia in Canada, there is also no doubt that we as Canadians also have the collective will to do something about it."
With files from Kate Dubinski