A national strategy to combat anti-Muslim hatred across society is one of 61 recommendations released by the National Council of Muslims in Canada on Monday ahead of a summit on Islamophobia due later this week.
The organization held events Monday in cities where crimes against Muslims have been committed in recent years, including Quebec City, greater Toronto, Edmonton and London, Ontario, where four family members were killed while walking last month. It used the events to present its 61 recommendations to policy makers ahead of Thursday’s national summit, a virtual event.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the NCCM, told reporters in southwestern Ontario that the recommendations target all levels of government and were compiled after consultations with members of the Muslim community across the country.
“We have to see action and we have to see it now,” said Farooq. “The governments attending the summit need to know that we want more than their attendance, we want to see their commitment to the schedules.”
More than half of the recommendations are aimed at the federal government and include developing a strategy to combat Islamophobia in the public service and in the wider Canadian society. The group suggested Ottawa create a special envoy to address Islamophobia and investigate alleged profiling within Canada’s Treasury and National Security agencies, Farooq said.
Other recommendations are to amend the Criminal Code to include specific penalties and dedicated prosecutors for hate crimes involving assault, threats, mischief and murder. The group also wants the government to remove the need for the attorney general’s approval before prosecuting hate and genocide cases.
For the provinces, the recommendations include teaching Islamophobia in schools, a system of accountability for hate crime units to the police, and a ban on white supremacy rallies.
In Quebec City, the announcement was made outside the Islamic Cultural Center, the site of a fatal shooting in January 2017 that left six men dead and others seriously injured. “The reality is that Canada has suffered more mass murders in the past five years than any other G7 country,” Farooq said. “It can’t go on like this.”
Nusaiba Al-Azem, second vice-chairwoman of the London Muslim Mosque, said the summit should not be viewed as a one-off event by politicians. “As we are here a few days before the summit, we would like to take this opportunity to remind our elected representatives that this summit is not the end, should not and cannot be the end,” said Al-Azem.
“It is simply a vehicle that we expect to see tangible changes happen at all levels of government.”
Of the 61 recommendations, Al-Azem highlighted one calling on the Attorney General to intervene in any controversy against the Quebec Secularism Act known as Bill 21 to prevent authorities, including teachers, police officers and judges, from using religious symbols in the To carry work. It makes preventive use of the deviating clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the legislature against legal challenges for violations of fundamental rights.
Al-Azem said the law disproportionately affected Muslim women as well as Jews and Sikhs. â€œIf I wanted to move to Quebec and work for the office of the Crown, (I would) be forced to either practice my faith or my profession, (well) I feel especially strong about Bill 21, a law that is included in the Year 2021, monitors and regulates women’s clothing, freedom of religion and our freedom of expression, “she said.
The Thursday summit of community and political leaders, academics and activists is one of two this week dedicated to tackling hate crimes. A similar virtual meeting on anti-Semitism is scheduled for Wednesday. “The reality is that attacks on racial minorities, whether they are attacks on Muslims, Indians, Blacks, Sikhs or Jews, implies all of us as Canadians,” Farooq said.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Diversity and Inclusion, Bardish Chagger, said Monday the government would work directly with organizations like the council and take their recommendations seriously.
“I can tell you that our government hears the Muslim community loudly and clearly that more measures must be taken to protect Muslim communities from the hatred and discrimination fueled by Islamophobia,” said press secretary Aidan Strickland. “We take all recommendations seriously and will continue to work to listen to the communities with lived experiences to support our efforts to create a diverse and consciously more inclusive Canada for all.”
Calls for the Islamophobia Summit came after Madiha Salman, 44, her husband Salman Afzaal, 46, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother, Talat Afzaal, were run over by a driver in London. Ontario, in June. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured in the attack.
“Real change is the real and only measure of the success and accountability of this summit,” said Al-Azem. “So that we can all work together to ensure that no other church ever has to open its doors to tens of thousands of mourners as we did here in London on June 8th.”
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