Calls to combat Islamophobia prominent in record-setting June for federal advocacy

Of note. Reflects the anniversary of the London killings:

Representatives of Canada’s Muslim population were on Parliament Hill in June calling on Ottawa to do more to combat Islamophobia during an advocacy event held on the anniversary of the fatal attack against an Ontario Muslim family.

“That attack forever changed the way that Muslims view their relationships with Canada and the country as a whole, and so we noticed a need for more,” said Fatema Abdalla, the communications coordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). “We placed our call for more to be done against systemic Islamophobia, and we’ve been calling for that for many years, but there’s so much more that needs to be done.”

The NCCM led the way in federal lobbying in June, filing 64 communication reports for the month. This was more than twice the number of communication reports contributed by other leading advocacy groups during the month, which included the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), which filed 29 reports, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which filed 26.

All but three of the NCCM’s communication reports for last month were for activity on June 6, when the organization’s representatives were on the Hill for a federal advocacy day.

Communities across Ontario held marches and vigils on June 6 to commemorate the lives of a Muslim family killed on the same date last year in London, Ont., On June 6, 2021, Yumna Afzaal, 15, her mother Madiha Salman, 44, father Salman Afzaal, 46, and her grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed when a vehicle jumped a curb while they were out for a Sunday walk. Police believe the driver targeted the family because of their Muslim faith.

The youngest son, who family members have asked not to be named, was injured but survived.

Abdalla told The Hill Times that this wasn’t the only attack of its kind in Canada, and referred to the terrorist attack on Jan. 29, 2017, where 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six worshipers at a mosque in Québec City.

To help protect Canada’s Muslim population, the NCCM’s representatives are pushing for the Liberal government to develop a national action plan to combat Islamophobia. The plan should include a national support fund intended to help survivors of hate-motivated crimes, and funding to improve security at mosques, according to Abdalla. NCCM members would also like the federal government to create a provision in the criminal code that mandates a special process to deal with hate crimes, including stiffer penalties for violent offenders and a rehabilitation path for specific and relevant offenders.

NCCM representatives met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), and nine other federal ministers during the advocacy event on the Hill. The NCCM is represented on the federal lobbyists’ registry by CEO Mustafa Farooq and assistant advocacy officer Amar Abdisamed.

During the advocacy day, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.) announced that Ottawa has begun the hiring process to find a Special Representative on Combating Islamophobia. This announcement fulfilled a Liberal government commitment made in January, according to an NCCM press release from June 27.

Islamophobia is a daily reality for far too many Muslim communities in Canada and around the world, according to Daniele Medlej, the director of communications in Hussen’s office, in an emailed statement to The Hill Times on July 20.

“From the Quebec Mosque shooting to the London attack just last year, we are reminded of the devastating consequences Islamophobia can have,” said Medlej in the email.

Medlej did not provide details on when the federal government is hoping to have filled the role of Special Representative.

In the email, Medlej said the Special Representative will serve as “a champion, advisor, expert and representative” to the Liberal government, and will collaborate with domestic partners, institutions and stakeholders to support Canada’s efforts to combat Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hate, systemic racism, racial discrimination and religious intolerance.

The Liberal government is committed to getting the appointment of the Special Representative right, and will share more details as they become available, she added.

“[The Special Representative] will impact Canada’s fight against Islamophobia by enhancing our efforts, addressing barriers faced by the community, and promoting awareness of the diverse and intersectional identities of Muslims in Canada,” said Medlej in the emailed statement. “Our government stands with, and continues to support, Muslim communities across Canada. We unequivocally condemn Islamophobia, hate and discrimination of any kind.”

Also on June 6, the NCCM welcomed an announcement by Liberal MP Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre, Ont.), who said she plans to begin public consultations on a private member’s bill that would aim to hold intelligence and justice officials accountable for breaches of the “duty of candour” they have towards the Federal Court. The duty of candour refers to the responsibility that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officials and Department of Justice lawyers have to present a judge with all the relevant facts, including information that may sway the judge against their request.

Zahid’s announcement followed complaints she has received from her constituents and from racialized Canadians in general about being unfairly targeted by CSIS, as previously reported in The Hill Times.

The NCCM argued in the June 27 press release that violations of the duty of candour by intelligence officials has caused serious and long-term harm to marginalized communities.

June was a record-breaking month for federal lobbying, with 2,587 communication reports in total posted for that month, according to a search of the federal lobbyists’ registry on July 21. June had the highest total of communication reports for that month since at least 2009, which is the earliest that online records are available for June. The previous record for June was 2,468 communication reports filed in June 2021.

Source: Calls to combat Islamophobia prominent in record-setting June for federal advocacy

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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