Refugees should not be made scapegoats for Paris attacks, Ontario groups say

As Canada prepares to receive 25,000 Syrian refugees, a coalition of anti-racism groups is calling on all Canadians to ensure those seeking refuge don't become scapegoats for anger over the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Amid spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes, Premier Wynne plans speech at Ottawa Mosque

In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, photo, a Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father's arms. Canada has vowed to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees, and anti-racism groups worry they will become scapegoats for anger over the Paris attacks. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

​Anti-racism groups in the province are calling on Ontario do more to combat the spike in hate crimes that has followed the Paris attacks. 

Groups including the Canadian Arab Federation and the African-Canadian Legal Clinic went to Queen's Park on Thursday to raise concerns in the wake of an attack on a Muslim woman in Toronto and a fire at a mosque in Peterborough, Ont., that is being investigated as a hate crime.

As Canada prepares to receive 25,000 Syrian refugees, the group worries the newcomers could become targets for harassment and violence as people draw links between ISIS militants and Syrian refugees. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 129 people in the French capital on Friday. 

"We cannot use these Syrian refugees as a scapegoat," Mohamed Boudjenane, the acting president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said. "These same people we are bringing to Canada are the main victims of these terrorist groups."

His colleague, Mohamed El Rashidy, said the people coming to Canada are not asylum seekers, they are refugees, who have already been undergoing screening as they wait in United Nations camps for years.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council or Agencies Serving Immigrants, said Canada is "absolutely" ready for an influx of refugees.

In Ontario, her organization has for months been arranging housing that ranges from low-cost motels to dormitory rooms, she said.

"Some politicians have been fanning the whole notion that anyone coming from that part of the world must be a terrorist and we as Canadians should be closing our doors," Douglas said.

She called on the province to launch a major public education campaign to boost support for refugees.

Earlier this week, Premier Kathleen Wynne reconfirmed Ontario's commitment to welcome Syrian refugees fleeing civil war in their country.

Wynne plans to deliver remarks Friday at the Ottawa Mosque alongside Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi.

The province is considering using recently decommissioned hospitals as temporary housing for refugees.

With files from Mike Crawley and Canadian Press


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