Canadian Muslim organizations call for government action to counter growing Islamophobia

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – December 5, 2016) A coalition of Canadian Muslim representatives joined the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) today in calling on the federal government to take concrete steps in countering Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

At a news conference held this morning, national and local community representatives said there are growing concerns about anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred in Canada and that the federal government’s leadership is required to effectively address them.

« As community representatives, we are deeply concerned about the impact of hate crimes and hate incidents on the broader well-being of our communities, and especially on our children, » said NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee in the news conference, referencing a doubling of hate crimes and incidents in Canada between 2012 and 2014, as well as a sharp increase in number of reported human rights violations impacting Canadian Muslims.

A 2016 Environics Institute survey revealed that 35% of Canadian Muslims have experienced discrimination and unfair treatment in recent years.

Canadian Council of Imams

« As faith leaders, we interact with members of our community on a daily basis. We are keenly aware of the impact that expressions of hate against Islam and Muslims are having on members of our communities, » said Imam Sikander Hashmi, representing the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI).

« The reality is that we are receiving reports that children are being taunted and bullied at school by fellow classmates and sometimes even teachers, that women are afraid to dress according to their beliefs, that qualified men are denied employment opportunities simply because of their names or their appearance. The impact of Islamophobia is sadly very real and a growing reality in Canada, even in 2016, » said Hashmi.

Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Workplace discrimination, especially for women in religious attire, was identified as one of the key barriers to employment. This trend has continued to worsen and needs some immediate remedial course of action, said Farhat Rehman from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). « We call upon our Muslim communities to respond to this initiative by our parliamentarians, and step up to be the leaders in executing action plans and join these efforts in unprecedented numbers. »

Islamic Social Services Association

« We are concerned that in the absence of appropriate supports, many youth will internalize this pain and subsequent resentment may surface in unhealthy ways. Those without adequate family, school, and community supports may act out in other negative behaviour, » said Aisha Sherazi of the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA).

Islam Care Centre

« Islamophobia need not only be based on hate or malice. It can be based on genuine ignorance, misunderstanding, and a lack of access to meaningful resources. This is especially serious when talking about agencies and institutions that serve the most vulnerable, like children, youth, people with mental illness, » said Omar Mahfoudhi, executive director of the Islam Care Centre.

« This includes the likes of child welfare services, schools, community health centres, emergency shelters, mental health supports to name a few. It is incumbent upon not only the individuals in our community, but also our social workers, managers, teachers, policymakers and leadership to have a clear understanding of Islam and Islamophobia. »

Parliamentary motion tabled

The call by Canadian Muslim representatives follows a parliamentary motion put on the order paper by Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid (Mississauga – Erin Mills) on December 1st and announced today.

The motion says the « the government should (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it; (c) request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making, (ii) collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities, and that the Committee should present its findings and recommendations to the House no later than 240 calendar days from the adoption of this motion, provided that in its report, the Committee should make recommendations that the government may use to better reflect the enshrined rights and freedoms in the Constitution Acts, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. »